Massachusetts schools this week reported 669 new COVID-19 cases among students and staff.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the numbers Thursday in its weekly COVID-19 report. A total of 476 students and 193 employees with district building access within seven days of the report tested positive between March 11 and March 17.
The case report marks an increase of 146 total cases from the previous week. The last report said 377 students and 146 district staff tested positive, for a total of 523 cases.
The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education released new guidance earlier this month as schools across the state prepare to return to in-person learning next month.
A memo from Elementary and Secondary Commissioner Jeffrey Riley lays out a timeline for when Massachusetts schools will be required to return to full-time, classroom learning, setting the expectation that middle and elementary schoolers will be back in classrooms in April.
The guidance, which includes a timeline on when different grade levels will return, is as follows:
- Elementary school phase (grades K-5): For elementary schools, hybrid and remote learning models will no longer count towards meeting the required student learning time hours as of Monday, April 5, 2021. As a result, districts and schools are required to shift their learning model for elementary school grade levels to full-time, in-person instruction five days per week effective Monday, April 5, 2021.
- Middle school phase (grades 6-8): For middle schools, hybrid and remote learning models will no longer count towards meeting the required student learning time hours as of Wednesday, April 28, 2021. As a result, districts and schools will be required to shift their learning model for middle school grade levels to full-time, in-person instruction five days per week, effective Wednesday, April 28, 2021.
- High school phase (grades 9-12): State education officials said they will announce the details and timing of the high school phase of the plan in April. Districts will be provided with at least two weeks in advance of the date for high school students to return to full-time, in-person instruction, but should start making such plans now.
School districts will still be required to provide a remote option for parents who choose to keep their kids remote through the end of this school year, state education officials said. There will also be waivers available on a case-by-case basis to help school districts that are just starting to go back to hybrid to ease into the full in-person model.