The top education official in Massachusetts is urging public school districts in the state’s three largest cities to bring high-needs students back to the classroom for in-person learning.
Jeffrey Riley, commissioner of elementary and secondary education, ordered the Boston, Worcester and Springfield school districts in letters released Friday to submit within 10 days their plans to bring students with disabilities and special needs back to school.
“For these particularly vulnerable groups of students, it is vital to have a plan for providing in-person instruction as soon as possible,” Riley wrote.
Riley did not specify when he would like classrooms to reopen.
Unsatisfactory responses could spark an audit “to assess overall efforts to provide in-person instruction and to ensure your remote learning program is consistent with state and federal laws and regulations,” according to the letter.
Boston is providing in-person learning for fewer than 200 students at four schools, representing less than 1% of the more than 51,000 students in the system. Springfield and Worcester do not currently have any in-person instruction, according to the state.
Riley and Gov. Charlie Baker have urged districts to keep students in classrooms even if a community is designated high risk for coronavirus spread. Districts should switch to remote education if there is evidence of in-school spread of the virus, they have said.
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Boston has assembled a task force to devise a plan for opening more classrooms to students with significant learning needs but has not released a timeline.
The Worcester School Committee said Thursday it stood by a decision made last month to extend remote education into January so school buildings can be made safer.