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Coronavirus Latest: Gov. Baker Orders Mass. Schools Stay Closed For Remainder Of Academic Year

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts students will not return to in-person learning this school year, Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Tuesday. The remainder of the academic year will be conducted through remote learning due to coronavirus.

Baker initially announced in March that schools would be closed through April 7. But less than two weeks later, the governor extended his order and said schools would open no sooner than May 4.

That changed again on Tuesday. Baker determined that Massachusetts schools will close out the year by learning remotely.

"At this point in time, there is no authoritative guidance or advisories with respect to how to operate schools safely, and how to get kids to and from schools safely," said Baker. "We believe students, therefore cannot safely return to school and avoid the risk of transmitting this virus to others."

Baker said that while school buildings will remain closed, it is important to note that learning will continue.

"Closing the actual school buildings for the year does not mean it's time to start summer vacation early," Baker said. "We're making this decision to allow school districts to plan through the end of the year to offer remote learning for all students."

On Monday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hinted that a decision would be coming soon, saying he was "not too confident" students would be returning to the classroom this school year.

Massachusetts Teachers Association president Merrie Najimy issued a statement on Tuesday before Baker made his announcement, saying "our public school buildings must remain closed for the rest of the year."

WBZ-TV's Mike LaCrosse reports

"Out of concern for our students, families, educators and communities, MTA members are demanding that Governor Charlie Baker immediately announce that our school buildings will remain closed and that remote learning will continue in Massachusetts for the remainder of this school year," Najimy wrote. "That step is essential for the health and well-being of our students and all public education staff."

During his press conference, Baker acknowledged that closing schools was a difficult decision, especially taking into account what it means for high school seniors.

"They've all worked hard for four years and they look forward to so-called last seasons, whether it's to play lacrosse, run track, participate in a school play, go to the prom, graduate," Baker said. "Because of COVID-19, a lot of this will not happen, and some of them will have new ways that are far different than anybody would have imagined it."

Baker also announced he is extending his previous executive order closing all non-emergency childcare programs until June 29.

"We know that the lack of childcare for many families has created an unanticipated burden, and it's hard to look after young children and balance the demands of working at home under the same roof," Baker said. "Maintaining structure is the best way to keep our kids and our providers safe from the spread of this insidious disease. In the coming months, we'll be working towards slowly restoring childcare capacity for both family childcare and center based programs once it can be done safely."

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said he believes the state will excel at remote learning because "in my opinion we have the best teachers and principals in the country."

Riley was asked about possibilities of what could happen to bring students back in the fall.

"What we've seen from other countries that have started the process of opening are things like temperature checking students, keeping desks six feet apart. Some people have staggered schedules. There are many possibilities," he said.

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