Massachusetts Schools Prepare for Possible Fall Reopening

Commissioner Jeff Riley has convened a working group to help develop a reentry plan for Massachusetts schools

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Despite uncertainty about what school will look like in the fall, education officials in Massachusetts are set to release draft guidance to school districts next month to help plan for reopening.

"I want to be clear, we are working to have schools up and running in the fall, with appropriate safety protocols," Commissioner Jeff Riley said during a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting Tuesday.

"Moreover, we hope to have some summer programming as well, but as with all, we will await the guidance from the administration on the timeline and the phases and when things are available."

Schools across Massachusetts were shuttered in mid-March as the state prepared for a surge in COVID-19 cases, forcing teachers, students and their families to abruptly transition into a new, at-home learning model.

Under an order from Gov. Charlie Baker, K-12 schools will remain closed for the rest of this academic year. Education Secretary James Peyser told lawmakers earlier this month that there is "no question" remote learning will be a large part of planning for the new school year and said that even if students return to classrooms in a "quasi-normal fashion," officials need to "be better prepared for the possibility that in-person education will be interrupted again."

With the state now in the first phase of the Baker administration's four-stage reopening plan, Riley has convened his own working group to help develop a reentry plan for Massachusetts schools.

The group held its first meeting on May 7, Riley wrote in a message to school districts, and its initial focus will be on what summer programming might be possible.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidance for school districts across the country with options to consider as they start planning for a potential reopening in the fall. Those guidelines include spacing desks six feet apart and separating students on school buses.

In addition to uncertainty around what the fall term will look like, local school districts and municipal governments are still facing an unknown budget picture. The pandemic upended the traditional Beacon Hill budget cycle, and economists have projected that state revenue collections for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will be billions of dollars below original projections.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

State House News Service
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