Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration approved the vast majority of waiver requests from local school officials seeking exemptions from the state’s plan requiring districts to resume full in-person learning for grades K-8 next month.
But not all of them.
The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said that they have denied nine waivers from schools that wanted to either delay the resumption of in-person classes for all K-12 grades past April 26, or wanted to keep a remote learning day in their schedule due to COVID-19.
According to DESE, the public school districts in Wareham, Easthampton, Gloucester, and Malden, as well as the Hill View Montessori Charter School in Haverhill, were denied waivers for delayed implementation.
South Hadley’s school district, as well as the Boston Collegiate Charter, Roxbury Prep, and Codman Academy charter schools in Boston, were denied waivers that sought to maintain some remote classes.
Officials noted that Wareham, Easthampton, Roxbury Prep, and Codman Academcy did get separate waivers to delay the full resumption of fifth grade classes until they brought back grades six through eight, due to the configuration of their schools.
Under the statewide reopening plan, the Baker administration — which has stressed that in-school transmission of COVID-19 is rare when face covering and social distancing measures are implemented — is generally requiring all public elementary schools to offer in-person classes five days a week by April 5, followed by middle schools on April 28.
The state has however granted 64 of the 77 waivers requested by districts, including for the state’s two largest districts, Boston and Worcester. (Officials are still reviewing four waivers.) According to DESE, 35 of the approved waivers were to allow more incremental returns, while 29 were to delay the reopening for fifth graders because of their inclusion in the district’s middle school configuration.
The state has 371 school districts.
“Ninety percent of the school districts in Massachusetts are going back at the beginning of April, which we think is great,” Baker said during a press conference Thursday morning. “Some of the bigger districts have more complicated challenges associated with that and they’re going to be a couple of weeks behind the ones that go first. But at this point in time, pretty much everybody’s going to be going to be back in person in the month of April.”
Boston Public Schools plans to transition to a hybrid model for all K-12 students by this Monday, March 29, before moving to full-time, in-person return for all K-8 students by April 26 (the first day after schools’ spring vacation in Massachusetts).
“This updated timeline ensures that we have adequate time to prepare facility and transportation modifications and allows us time to communicate information to families in a timely manner,” Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said in a letter to families Wednesday. “In addition, every day more and more BPS staff members are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, which will help to make our school communities feel more safe and comfortable for students, staff and families. This timeline also gives BPS educators time to plan for adjustments in instruction due to students shifting learning models.”
Worcester was allowed to delay full-time, in-person classes for K-8 students until May 3, 2021, with the district moving a hybrid model for K-12 students this upcoming Monday.
Read the full list of approved, denied, and pending waivers here.
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