13 MA school districts submit plan for virtual school in fall – Boston 25 News


13 Massachusetts school districts – including the four largest in the state – plan to offer some form of virtual school during the next school year, according to the Department of Preschool and Secondary Education (DESE).

School administrators from Attleboro, Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Falmouth, Lowell, Natick, Peabody, Pittsfield, Quabbin Regional School District, Springfield, Westfield and Worcester submitted proposals to DESE before Thursday’s deadline. DESE will review and comment on each proposal.

Boston 25 last week reported that Boston Public Schools were exploring the possibility of starting a full-time virtual school. The district emailed parents on April 26 to gauge the level of interest in a full-time virtual school option “to understand demand for planning purposes.” The email contained a link to a survey.

“BPS is just starting to explore this option and will provide more information once we look at the answers. This is the first step to understanding the level of interest in our community, ”said a spokesperson for BPS in an email to Boston 25 News.

“If BPS adopts a virtual school model, that would be an option for families. The district will not be completely remote and will offer in-person learning to students next year, ”the spokesperson said.

The district told parents that the experience of a virtual school would be similar to attending a physical school building, with a virtual classroom, BPS teachers, a principal and “rigorous instruction.” Students would be provided with computers and Internet access, according to the email.

DESE sent schools a memo on April 2, guiding them on what a virtual school should look like and what would be required.

“It is important to note that nationally, the performance of virtual schools is decidedly mixed… districts should carefully assess the extent to which a full-time district-run virtual school would lead to good educational outcomes for students.” , indicates the memo.

Jolanda Pressey said her 12-year-old daughter has done very well with distance learning at Mildred Avenue K-8 School in Mattapan. Pressey said she would consider keeping her daughter in a virtual school full time this fall.

“I’m half and half on it. I’m still trying to figure it out, to make sure it’s really safe, because the kids still aren’t vaccinated, so it’s a bit difficult, ”Pressey said.

Boston Teachers Union president Jessica Tang said last week that she was backing the proposal and working with the district on the finer details.

“I think they’re trying to get a feel for how many families might be interested in this,” Tang said. “We have heard from parents who have said that their students have actually done very well from a distance. They still have concerns about the drop due to the lack of accessibility of vaccines for students under 16. “

Dr John Sargent, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Tufts Children’s Hospital, said some students may thrive in distance learning. But he admits that national data on the long-term effects of virtual learning “is not great.”

“Maybe your child is being bullied. Maybe they are shy and school is a stressful experience for them and they are still learning very well. You want to make sure they thrive in whatever ways you care about, ”Dr. Sargent said.


Perry A. Thomasson