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Coronavirus Closures: Gov. Baker Orders All Mass. Schools Stay Closed Until May 4

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Wednesday that all schools in the state will be closed through the end of April due to coronavirus.

Schools, which had been ordered to close through April 6, will now open no sooner than May 4.

"This will provide school districts to provide the best possible opportunities for remote learning for all students," Baker said. "This is not an extended school vacation. During this long-term closure the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will work with school districts to further develop educational programming students can use at home. This way schools can plan for the return of students in May."

The state will be sending out guidance to school districts on Thursday.

Districts will be expected to implement new remote learning plans by early April.

"Our advice in the beginning is we recognize this is a traumatic time for our kids. We want to get them settled, and then we want to get them in a routine. We're going to be providing guidance tomorrow about what that routine could look like," said Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley

Baker said his administration is partnering with WGBH to launch online educational research for kids across Massachusetts.

Riley said schools will have to get creative with how they educate students. But he said this presents a unique opportunity.

"I think only time is going to tell on what happens. This could be an amazing opportunity to think differently about how we educate our kids, and think about real world applications, using social distancing of course," said Riley.

Riley and Baker stressed that school work can be done on the computer, but also with project-based lessons such as learning to cook or planting a garden as examples.

"If people really choose to embrace this, and it's not easy, there's an opportunity here to do some very different things with respect to encouraging and educating kids. And we certainly hope that ends up being where this goes," Baker said.

Riley acknowledged that not all students may have access to the internet, and they will not be punished for not having that resource.

"We think that districts should use whatever they have at their availability to get out to kids. But we want to make sure we don't penalize any children who don't have access to the internet," Riley said.

When asked about testing requirements for students, Riley said he will have to wait to see if Massachusetts receives the federal waiver it applied for, and wait to see if state legislation set up Tuesday will grant him the authority to make a decision. Once those hurdles are cleared, Riley said he will have a decision "in short order" about MCAS testing.

As of Wednesday, there are 1,838 cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts. Fifteen people have died in the state as a result.

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