Some Massachusetts schools delay return after vacation amid omicron spike



“They can take advantage of the snowy days … but they have to offer their children 180 days of in-person education this year.”

Governor Charlie Baker at a press conference last month. Jonathan Wiggs / The Boston Globe

Gov. Charlie Baker Expects Returning Students and Teachers to Massachusetts Schools After the Holidays to Be “a Difficult Time” as Omicron Variant of COVID-19 Drives Infection Rates to Never-Ever Levels seen.

However, that doesn’t mean Baker will allow schools to revert to distance learning.

At a Monday morning press conference in Salem, the Republican governor took a stand against distance learning, reiterating that his administration expects all schools to offer 180 days of in-person school days this year .

Even though some schools delayed their return on Monday to facilitate COVID-19 testing or due to staff shortages, Baker noted that the “vast majority” of districts in Massachusetts are reopening on schedule.

“The rules here are pretty straightforward,” he said. “We count the school in person as the school. If a school district is not open, at some point during the year it can use snow days until it is gone, but it must offer its children 180 in-person education days this year. And we’ll do everything we can to help them achieve that.

In the first two school years affected by the pandemic, the Baker administration had allowed districts to count virtually required school days as part of their legally required 180 days of learning. But after the widespread distribution of vaccines, they removed this flexibility.

In addition to vaccines, Baker pointed out that his administration COVID-19 test programs for students, which he said saved 450,000 days of face-to-face learning at approximately 2,200 Massachusetts schools this year.

State officials also announced last week that they would distribute rapid COVID-19 tests to every teacher and staff member in public schools, just as infection rates were starting to take off.

However, after the effort – already seen as a last-minute logistical challenge in the middle of the New Years weekend – was delayed by supply chain issues, some school districts chose to delay their return after the holidays. Like The Boston Globe reported, at least eight school districts – Laurent, Brookline, Lexington, Burlington, Ipswich, Randolph, Wareham, and Sharon – canceled their first day back on Monday, saying they either needed more time to test staff or were understaffed due to COVID-19. Cambridge delayed their return by two days, so they can test the students on Monday and get the results on Tuesday, before resuming classes on Wednesday. Other schools delayed their first day back Monday by an hour or two.

The delays came after the state’s two largest teacher unions called for a return to distance learning statewide due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association said Friday that all public schools should be off Monday to give more time to distribute state-bought rapid tests to teachers and asked the Baker administration to provide more flexibility to allow schools to switch to distance learning. And the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers called for “a period of distance learning until the current wave of infections subsides.”

Baker showed no appetite for such a move on Monday.

The governor noted that schools could use one of their five snow days or redeem a scheduled professional development day, if they cancel in-person classes for reasons related to COVID-19. And while noting that dealing with staff shortages associated with the unprecedented wave of infections “will be complicated,” he suggested schools could use federal COVID-19 relief funds to address the issue.

“I am somewhat reassured that most cities and school districts did not spend the vast majority of the federal money they received to support their educational programs during the school year,” a- he declared. “And that can be, I think, a great tool in helping people figure out how to get people to deal with some of the issues they have with staff throughout the year.”

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, a Democrat who joined Baker at the press conference on Monday, said they “fully anticipate that we will have vacancies or staff shortages due to COVID.”

“Frankly, that was the case before the holidays, too,” Driscoll said.

She added that the city would “do everything in its power” to keep the school safe and open, saying it would be “a difficult few weeks, but we think we can manage and keep the children there. ‘school “.


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