Baker: It’s time for remote school to end, starting at elementary school

The Associated Press

February 23, 2021 | 5:06 pm

BOSTON (AP) – Massachusetts is looking to get students back to classrooms in the coming months, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.

“With COVID cases and hospitalizations continuing to decline and vaccines on track, it’s time to set our sights on eliminating remote learning by April and starting elementary schools,” Baker said at an afternoon news conference. at the Statehouse.

While most districts have incorporated some in-person classroom learning for students, either entirely or by adopting a hybrid model, about 20% of districts are still completely remote, Baker said.

Those districts serve about 400,000 students, most of whom have not been in a classroom since last March, he added.

“The science is pretty clear in this case. Now there are dozens of reports from around the world that it is safe to be in school, ”said the Republican. “Getting children back to school must be a top priority.”

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, Baker added, “but it has been really difficult for the children and their parents as they struggle to be out of the classroom and separated from their teachers and peers.”

Baker echoed comments made by State Education Commissioner Jeff Riley.

Riley said that during the monthly meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education he would ask Baker next month to give him the authority to instruct districts across the state to open their classrooms full-time, five days to week.

Riley said the state’s collective testing program, with 157 districts and schools opting for the program as of last week, will also keep students and teachers safe.

Under the joint testing program, 10 nasal swabs from a classroom or group of students and staff will be placed in a single tube to be tested together. If the pooled sample is negative, all individuals are presumed negative. If the pooled sample is positive, all individuals will be retested with the rapid test.

The head of the Massachusetts Teachers Association criticized the plan outlined by Baker and Riley, saying it would take control of local school committees, which should have the final say on the return to the classroom, while undermining bargaining rights. collective union of teachers.

“There are places where it is possible to go back to in-person learning, but the commissioner’s arrogance to create top-down mandates will not get us there,” said MTA President Merrie Najimy. The Boston Globe.

Riley said the hybrid and remote learning models are having an adverse effect on the state’s students.

“We continue to see problems with our children who are not in school or only partially in school and the mental health challenges they face,” he said. “We know that having those connections between our teachers and their students is critical.”

Parents would retain the right to keep their children out of school and learn remotely, he said.

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