BOSTON – Boston Public Schools are looking to make distance learning a permanent option for students over the next school year. The district emailed parents on Wednesday 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 in 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.
Any virtual school option will still need to be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the district said.
Proposals for a single-district virtual school must be submitted to DESE by May 6.
“Several municipalities have expressed their interest. We have not yet received a proposal from Boston, ”said a spokesperson for DESE.
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Boston Teachers Union president Jessica Tang said she supports the proposal and is 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.
“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, ”said Dr. Sargent.
But he admits that national data on the long-term effects of virtual learning “is not great.”
Reyani Miles, a 5th year student in Dorchester, said she actually preferred to learn at home during the pandemic, but there is a lot about school that she would miss.
“I would miss my friends, I would miss Field Day. I would miss the things you can’t do at home, ”said Miles.
West Roxbury’s mother Shelia said the virtual school would not be the right choice for her children, a high school freshman and a junior.
“My thing is, they lack the connection to the teachers. It’s hard to get a virtual connection with a teacher, ”Shelia said.
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