Mass. Communities' COVID Risk Would Guide Schools' Reopening Plans: Report

New school guidelines would base the amount of remote learning on a community's individual coronavirus risk level, according to a memo obtained by The Boston Globe

Getty Images

Massachusetts' education department is reportedly issuing guidance on the amount of remote learning schools should use based on the coronavirus risk level in their communities.

As school districts scramble to submit reopening plans to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by Friday, superintendents received a memo from Commissioner Jeffrey Riley Tuesday night that would limit the use of online learning, according to The Boston Globe.

In a June memo, Riley had directed school districts to prepare plans for three different reopening models -- in-person, remote or a mix of the two -- with school committees voting to adopt one for the start of the year. Several districts have already opted for online-only or a hybrid version of in-person and remote learning.

In a COVID-19 update, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addresses reopening city schools amid the coronavirus pandemic and announces new funds for affordable housing.

The deadline for the choices to be made is Aug. 14.

But officials in Massachusetts released a new color-coded map Tuesday that identifies how much the coronavirus is currently spreading in all its communities. Only 33 districts are at moderate or high risk of spreading.

Under the new guidelines for schools, only districts in those areas would meet the threshold for using any remote learning, the Globe reports, while the vast majority of other communities would be recommended to have in-person instruction full-time. A hybrid model of in-person and online learning would be allowed for districts in low-risk communities in unique circumstances, according to the memo.

"I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t go back to school, whether it’s full-time or hybrid, because you meet all the benchmarks from across the country, on whether its safe to go back to school," Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday of schools in low risk communities.

At the announcement of new, community-specific coronavirus data, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said that many communities meet most benchmarks for at least a hybrid model of in-person learning.

The reported last-minute policy change comes amid calls for a remote-only start to the school year from teachers unions in Massachusetts. Simultaneously, some parents are pushing for schools to reopen full-time, and a group of them are gathering in protest outside the State House Wednesday.

More From Riley's Memo

“It is our expectation that districts’ learning models will follow this color-coded metric unless there are extenuating circumstances identified after consultation with local boards of health,” Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley wrote in a memo to superintendents Tuesday night, according to the Globe. “This includes reviewing additional metrics, such as whether cases are increasing or decreasing, the local test positivity rate, and other contextual factors.”

“We understand that local school committees and governing boards, working with district and school leaders, have recently finalized or are about to finalize initial fall reopening plans. We expect these updated metrics and related guidance will support your decision-making both for school reopening and throughout the year if we encounter changing circumstances," Riley added.

Contact Us