Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is requiring all public school districts in Massachusetts to resume in-person classes five days a week this spring.
However, not all of them will be opening up at the same time.
The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Tuesday that it has approved 58 of the 74 waiver requests from districts seeking exemptions from the plan to fully reopen elementary schools by April 5.
Officials said that 32 of the waiver requests were approved to allow districts to reopen on a more incremental basis, beginning in a hybrid model by April 5 before moving to fully in-person classes by April 12, April 26, or May 3, depending on the district. The other 26 waiver requests were granted to delay the reopening for fifth graders in communities where they’re included in the districts’ middle schools.
DESE said it’s still reviewing 10 waiver requests, including from the state’s two largest school districts: Boston Public Schools and Worcester Public Schools.
Six waiver requests were denied because the districts wanted to continue in a hybrid model for the remainder of the school year or keep a fully remote day, according to DESE. Officials didn’t immediately identify which districts had their requests denied.
The deadline to apply for the waivers was Monday at 5 p.m.
Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday that the administration was “pleased” that 90 percent of the state’s 371 school districts will “have their elementary schools back fully in-person by April 5, with all elementary schools in the Commonwealth fully in-person by May 3.” State officials have repeatedly argued that in-person classes can be held safely with face-covering and social-distancing measures, especially as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout progresses.
“Many school districts have been safely educating students in person since September, and we are thrilled that the remainder of all elementary students will be back in classrooms soon,” Riley said. “Bringing all our kids back to school is crucial for their educational progress and emotional and social well-being, and we will continue to work with districts to bring students back ahead of their waiver-approved return dates.”
The state’s school reopening plan requires middle schools to resume fully in-person classes by April 28 and hints that high schools will be mandated to follow later this spring, with more details slated to be released next month.
Some of the approved waivers include allowing Brockton to resume classes for elementary students on a hybrid basis on April 5, before transitioning to fully in-person by April 26. Springfield elementary schools will also begin in a hybrid model on April 5, with plans to resume classes five days a week by May 3.
Officials say elementary schools in Chelsea will be fully reopen for K-4 students by April 12, while Somerville received approval to delay the full reopening of elementary classes until April 28, when middle school classes are required to come back five days a week as well.
Boston Public Schools — which was in the midst of its own incremental reopening plan when Baker’s administration announced their plan — announced Tuesday morning that it had applied for a waiver to begin offering in-person classes for K-8 students five days a week beginning April 26. Currently, the district is offering classes two days a week for those grades, with plans to bring back high school students on a hybrid basis as well next week.
Under the Baker administration’s plan requiring schools to fully reopen, parents still have the option to keep their children learning fully remotely.
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