Massachusetts may have lost more than a quarter of the available space at child care centers, complicating life for parents at a time when school districts are still deliberating whether to bring students back to the classroom this fall.
Child care programs were given the green light to reopen in June after being shutdown during the pandemic, but only 5,910 of the state’s 8,224 providers -- about 72 % -- have submitted plans to reopen by late July, the Boston Globe reports. Another 163 child care centers have closed completely, wiping out 2,855 seats -- or 1.3% -- of the state’s capacity.
State education leaders sounded the alarm over the shortage during a Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care meeting Tuesday, the Globe reports, with many of the members calling for action across agencies and within communities.
Some child care providers have yet to decide whether or not to reopen in September, according to the Globe, as they weigh coronavirus data and wait for school districts to submit reopening plans to the state, which are due Friday.
The state's education department 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.
But as school districts scramble to submit those plans to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by Friday, superintendents received a memo from Commissioner Jeffrey Riley earlier this week that would limit the use of online learning based on the coronavirus risk level in their communities.
Officials in Massachusetts released a new color-coded map earlier this week that identifies how much the coronavirus is currently spreading in all its communities. Only 33 districts are at moderate or high risk of spreading, a metric that the state would use to regulate remote learning.
The superintendent of Boston Public Schools and Mayor Marty Walsh have already ruled out a full-scale return for the fall. Boston Public School officials are still trying to decide between a hybrid or remote-only model as they consider limitations within their facilities and transportation capabilities.
About 120 out of the 125 buildings have been sanitized so far and the district has purchased safety supplies, including about 5,000 pieces of plexiglass to prepare.
Meanwhile, Boston teachers unions are calling for a remote-only start to the school year while some parents push for schools to reopen full-time. A group of parents gathered in protest outside the State House Wednesday.
“We continue to be very concerned about the timeline and don’t think the simultaneous hybrid approach is realistic," Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang said. BTU plans to hold a rally and deliver its plans for a safe restart to the mayor Thursday.