By Julia Preszler, Globe Correspondent
The Globe's Great Divide team investigates the deep inequalities in our public education system, examining both the challenges and possible solutions to creating equal opportunity for all students. Anyone interested can sign up for this free newsletter here.
The latest from The Great Divide team

Your child’s a no-show at virtual school? You may get a call from the state’s foster care agency

Massachusetts school officials have reported dozens of families to state social workers for possible neglect charges because of issues related to their children’s participation in remote learning classes during the pandemic shutdown in the spring, according to interviews with parents, advocates, and reviews of documents.

In most cases, lawyers and family advocates said, the referrals were made solely because students failed to log into class repeatedly. Most of the parents reported were mothers, and several did not have any previous involvement with social services.

The trend was most common in high-poverty, predominantly Black and Latino school districts in Worcester, Springfield, Haverhill, and Lynn; advocates and lawyers reported few, if any, cases from wealthier communities.

- Bianca Vázquez Toness, Globe Staff

Read more.
When Em Quiles' second-grade son didn't participate in zoom classes during remote learning due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the school reported her to the Department of Children and Families. SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF
With COVID-19 infection rates below 1% in most Massachusetts towns, many parents wonder why schools can’t fully reopen

All summer long, Jennifer Infurna, a Winchester mother of incoming second- and third-graders, carefully watched COVID-19 infection rates in her town hover well below the state average. Just last week, state data showed the 14-day infection rate was only one-tenth of 1 percent.

For Infurna, the data indicated it should be OK for full-time schooling, a welcome relief after a chaotic spring in which she often had to set aside her job to step in as her children’s teacher.

But Infurna and other like-minded parents in this bedroom community north of Boston found themselves waging a losing battle to get schools to fully reopen, as the local teachers union pushed for a remote start in the fall. Added to the mix were other parents who supported a blended approach or only remote. The fight turned nasty at times. Emotions boiled over in social media postings and at virtual School Committee meetings.

"I thought our advocacy would result in more in-person learning, at least K-5," Infurna said. "In the end, it may have prevented us from only having remote learning. ... I think of my kids and it breaks my heart."

- James Vaznis, Globe Staff

Read more.

Plus, wondering what your own school district is planning for the fall? Check out our tracker of Massachusetts school districts' reopening plans here. 

When should schools use only remote learning? Mass. issues new metrics to help districts decide

For days, Governor Charlie Baker has been questioning why so many school systems with low COVID-19 infection rates in their communities are starting the year with remote learning — an issue that many parents advocating for a return to full-time schooling have been raising for weeks.

Now, state education officials have issued new guidelines that tie school reopening plans to local COVID-19 infection rates, a move that could dramatically limit the use of remote learning and potentially throw an 11th-hour wrench into reopening plans days before they are due.

- James Vaznis, Globe Staff

Read more.

For more information, read the full guidance here.

Also, Baker said Tuesday that many municipalities have a low-enough risk level to bring children back to school — at least part-time.

Hybrid schooling could be a public health disaster, some doctors warn

As communities throughout the state scramble to craft back-to-school plans that prioritize public safety and academics, some officials have lauded hybrid schooling — which includes some variation of both in-school and at-home learning — as a solution that seems to strike an ideal middle ground between the remote-only and full-time camps.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh substituted the more kid-friendly term "hopscotch" while proposing a two-days-in-school, three-days-at-home hybrid model during a Wednesday press conference.

Call it hopscotch or hybrid or blended learning, but some infectious disease experts call it a potential public health disaster. Alternating schedules could cause children to ebb and flow within an expanded network, transitioning from home to school to child-care centers and thus having a greater risk of exposure or transmission.

- Hanna Krueger and Felicia Gans, Globe Staff

Read more.

Boston Public Schools prepare for reopening as September nears
  • Boston Public Schools and after-school providers have worked to create emergency learning centers where students can gather in person to study this fall.
  • Boston Public Schools superintendent Brenda Cassellius said officials have not made a final decision on how schools will reopen.
  • Parents will likely be able to choose how their children will learn this fall. Whether or not in-person classes will be an option will depend on COVID-19 infection rates remaining low enough for classrooms to open.
  • Boston teachers formed a caravan of cars last week that drove through the city from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School to City Hall to urge city officials to keep school buildings closed this fall. 
  • School staff are hard at work outfitting school buildings to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Here's what they've been doing.
Other education news from the Globe:
GlobeDocs Presents: 'My voice matters': Brighton Debate en Español team gives students a platform to grow
Tuesday, Aug. 18
1-1:45 p.m.

The Boston Debate League was the first in the country to have a Spanish-speaking division, which began in 2013. A Globe video journalist spent part of a season following the Brighton High School Debate en Español team.

Tune in on Tuesday for a discussion with filmmaker Shelby Lum and film subjects Ramon Trinidad and Manuel Coronado, moderated by the Globe's Jenna Russell.

RSVP here. And watch the full documentary here.
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More about The Great Divide
The Great Divide builds on the findings of the Globe's Valedictorians Project, a Pulitzer Prize finalist that published in January 2019. The project revealed that even the best students in Boston public schools often struggle after high school. The Great Divide team is examining public education in the region, with humanity and empathy, and with a goal of provoking public discussion and exploring what might be done to fix core issues of inequality, social mobility, and economic opportunity. Please send ideas and suggestions to:

Tell us what you want to see in our enhanced education coverage.

The Valedictorians Project
Boston's top students from 2005 to 2007 set out to change the world. But then life happened.

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