State Elementary, Middle Schools Required To Come Back In-Person In April

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Tuesday that school districts statewide will need to bring their elementary and middle school students back for in-person learning in April.

Under the new guidance, grades K-5 would come back to full-time in-person learning by April 5, with grades 6-8 coming back by April 28, and high school students coming back at a later, unannounced date.

The guidance from DESE included an important caveat: individual parents could choose to keep their students at home with no penalty.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said that district-mandated remote or hybrid learning would no longer count towards students' mandatory learning hours after the department's deadlines have passed.

School districts will be able to apply for a waiver to have remote or hybrid learning still count toward their students' mandatory learning hours.

DESE also said that the new regulations are "legally binding," and that any district that didn't comply with the guidance by the set deadlines would need to make up in-person learning time this year, in the summer or next fall. According to the Department, state school committees would not need to vote to adopt full-time in person learning.

Desks in state classrooms will need to be separated by three feet of space, and all students will be required to wear masks, regardless of grade, (unless they have an exemption) effective immediately.

The Massachusetts Teacher's Association responded to the guidelines Tuesday night. President of the Massachusetts Teacher's Association Merrie Najimy said the union isn't opposed to fully reopening schools, but that reopening in April is too soon for all districts to comply with. "Some schools are simply not going to be ready," she said.

Najimy said the guidance "...reflects an arrogant, top down, one-size-fits-all view that the department knows better than educators, parents, and local school committees."

Najimy said the union would like to see schools reopen fully after school employees are vaccinated.

WBZ's Kim Tunnicliffe (KimWBZ) has more on the MTA's response:

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(Photo: Getty Images)

Written by Chaiel Schaffel

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