Schools across the state are back in session after winter break and the return has been marred yet again by another surge in COVID-19 cases.
The start of the week was supposed to mark a normal return to the classroom, but for nearly a dozen school districts across the state, schools remained closed or delayed because of rising COVID-19 cases and concerns about testing the staff.
We want to know how parents, faculty, and staff think schools should handle the current surge.
Before winter recess had come to a close, teachers unions were sounding alarms about the potential risks of returning to school. The Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Teachers suggested Monday be a testing day, followed by remote learning as results are processed, out of an abundance of caution following holiday celebrations.
Children in Massachusetts are testing positive at higher rates than adults and children ages 5 to 9 have higher rates of virus transmission than any other age demographic, second only to 10- to 14-year-olds. However, despite the high rates of infection among children, the cases haven’t led to any dramatic increases in the number of hospitalized pediatric COVID-19 patients.
Across the state, schools have gotten off to a rocky start post-winter break. At least eight school districts, including Lawrence, Brookline, Lexington, Burlington, Ipswich, Randolph, Wareham, and Sharon, canceled their first day back Monday due to staff shortages and difficulties getting available staff tested for the virus, according to The Boston Globe.
In Boston, where classes resumed Tuesday, 1,074 staff members called out of work for varying reasons including COVID-19, according to Boston Superintendent Brenda Cassellius.
Despite concerns about the surging case rates, state and local officials have made it clear that keeping schools open is a top priority. Gov. Charlie Baker has said that school districts “need to provide their kids with 180 days of in-person education this year” even if that means using snow days for instruction.
Cassellius told WBUR that she anticipates transportation delays and bus driver shortages, but the district’s goal is to “keep classes going and keep students in-person.”
“We have our central office teams, many of us are licensed teachers, myself included,” Cassellius said. “If I have to go out and teach in a classroom, I’m going to do that.”
Given that schools state and local officials have said schools will remain open and the ongoing surge likely means some students and staff will get infected, how do you think schools should respond to the surge in positive cases? Let us know your thoughts by filling out the survey below or e-mailing us at [email protected].