Despite growing evidence that it's safe for students to return to class on a full-time basis, as well as guidance from federal health officials suggesting that in-person learning should move forward, a Massachusetts school district is resisting calls from parents to end its hybrid learning plan.
A group of more than 600 Milton residents, including parents, want children to return to class immediately. They say remote learning is putting a strain on students and taking its toll on families.
"We're desperate to get these children back in," said Pony Stacpole, a Quincy teacher who lives in Milton, where her two children attend middle school. "To put a first grader — and I teach first graders — in front of a computer for hours a day is difficult at best, and it's horrendous at worst."
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Other parents said the demanding and inconvenient nature of working around a hybrid learning plan has forced them to make tough decisions.
"I've had to cut my hours down," said Kristin Kociol, a nurse who works from home while her two children attend virtual class in the other room. "My youngest daughter will be going back to school five half days next week, but that means that we're going to have to find somebody to get her to school, because I can't just pick up and leave work in the middle of the day."
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that it is safe for schools to reopen before teachers have been vaccinated.
"Schools can safely reopen, and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely," she said.
Her remarks came as coronavirus cases continue to trend downward statewide in Massachusetts, something that has promoted Gov. Charlie Baker to ease restrictions.
But the school superintendent, James Jette, said he's not comfortable bringing everyone back yet.
In a statement on Thursday, he wrote, in part:
"I wholeheartedly agree with all families and educators that the best place for our students to learn and interact socially with their teachers and peers is in the school buildings," Jette said in a statement Thursday. "Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a national pandemic. Health care experts predicted that December, January and February would be the worst three months in the history of public health. We all saw that prediction come to fruition with the staggering numbers of daily positive COVID 19 cases since December 1, 2020."