Massachusetts education commissioner wants full return to the classroom

Governor Baker and education officials in Massachusetts are planning to have at least elementary students back to learning fully in person by April, with older students to follow.

BOSTON, Mass. (WLNE) – Governor Baker and education officials in Massachusetts are planning to have at least elementary students back to learning fully in person by April, with older students to follow.

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

Some parents tell ABC 6 they’re looking forward to the possibility of sending their kids back to physical school buildings.

“I think it’s fantastic to be honest with you,” said parent Jason Burns of Fall River.

According to Governor Baker, 80 percent of students are learning in person or in a hybrid model, while 20 percent are still fully remote.

“Looks like there’s hope on the horizon,” said parent Paul Jacques of Attleboro. “Work from home, school from home, everything in life in general, it just causes a lot of chaos around the house.”

Education commissioner Jeff Riley announced Tuesday that he’s asking the Board of Education to amend student learning time regulations so they can eventually phase out remote learning.

Those that are not welcoming the decision include the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

“This came out of the blue for a lot of people,” said President of the union Merrie Najimy.

The MTA wants a plan to ensure teachers are vaccinated before returning, and they want issues with ventilation fully addressed.

“The commissioner can’t just wave a magic wand to make all of the dangers and the problems go away by April,” said Najimy.

Parents say, though they are welcoming the news that their children could go back to school, they also want to ensure safety.

“I have concern for every employee in the school, and are they getting their vaccines, and what about the air handling units? And how does that impact somebody else being sick or not sick,” said Burns. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions, so I don’t think it’s perfect.”

The governor also said that the state has launched a weekly surveillance testing program in schools which will be expanding throughout the state.

“As long as the administrators, teachers unions, the school committees, the experts – everybody feel that it’s ok,” said Jacques. “And then most of all the parents – how they feel, as long as it’s an option and the parents can decide because they know what’s best for their children.”

Officials say they are starting with elementary students in April, because they are being hurt the most developmentally.

Burns says his eight-year-old and nine-year-old daughters have been fully remote since last March, and though they are doing well, he says him and his wife know in person will be better for them.

“I choose to look at this Covid thing in a positive light, like this is extra family time that we’re getting,” said Burns. “But I think both of us can recognize that our children are missing out.”

The commissioner also said that parents will still have the choice of keeping their children fully remote for the rest of the school year.

Some districts may also be able to apply for a waiver, if they need to take a slower approach to reopening.

Categories: Coronavirus, Massachusetts, News, Regional News