Baker Says Students Are Heading Back Into Classrooms

HYANNIS – Governor Charlie Baker outlined plans Tuesday to return students almost entirely to in-person learning by the end of April. 

He said that the plan will begin with elementary schools, then possibly reintroduce middle schoolers back to classes soon after. 

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said that elementary schoolers are less likely to transmit the coronavirus, and are easier to cohort. 

He also said that the age group is the most negatively affected by continued remote learning. 

“There’s no substitute for in-person learning, especially for kids in elementary school. Our administration has been clear for months that the best place for kids is in the classroom,” said Baker. 

“We know that the pandemic has been difficult on everyone, but it’s been really tough on kids and parents as they struggle to be out of the classroom and detached from their teachers and their peers.” 

Baker said that 20 percent of schools within the state are currently using a fully-remote format for learning, which includes about 400,000 students.

The governor said that schools are not a significant spreader of the coronavirus and that the new weekly pooled testing initiative has improved their ability to safely open even further.

A rapid testing initiative was also launched by the state for students who are asymptomatic.

Between testing and personal protective equipment, Baker said that the state has provided about a billion dollars worth of resources for schools.

With new daily case numbers and hospitalizations falling, Baker said that it is the time to begin transitioning kids back to school across the state.

“Our Commonwealth and our country are making progress in getting back to what I think of as the next normal, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that kids can get back in the classroom. They deserve the highest quality education possible,” said Baker. 

DESE Commissioner Riley said he would work in conjunction with medical experts on a phased approach to the reintroduction of students to the classroom.

He said that parents will still have the option to have their children learn remotely through the end of the school year, and that there will be a waiver process for districts who need to take a more incremental approach to the transition back to in-person, such as to a hybrid model from fully remote instead of directly to in-person.

Early educators and K-12 workers will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in step 3 of Phase 2 of the state’s vaccine distribution plan

Currently, the state is in step 2, which individuals who are 65 and older and those with 2 or more certain medical conditions. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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