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Return To The Classroom: Massachusetts Sets Deadlines For Elementary, Middle Schools To Shift To In-Person Learning

BOSTON (CBS) -- Massachusetts is aiming to do away with remote and hybrid learning for students in grades K-8 by the end of April. Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley announced deadlines on Tuesday for elementary and middle schools to return to in-person learning.

Elementary schools will be required to have "full-time, in-person instruction five days per week" starting Monday, April 5. Middle schools will have to do the same by  Wednesday, April 28.

No deadline has been set for high school students, but the timing will be announced in April. Districts will get at least two weeks notice before students will be required to return to in-person learning full-time, Riley said.

North Attleboro first grader Daniel Dorion will soon spend five days at school with his teachers and classmates and his mom is thrilled. "It's been a long time coming. It needed to happen a while ago so I'm just really ecstatic," said Leann Dorion.

Getting Daniel and soon his high school aged sisters back in school fully is what mom Leann has been fighting for.

"He wasn't where he was supposed to be and all I kept thinking is he's going to finish this first grade year and he's not going to have the skills," Leann Dorion said.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education recently gave Riley the authority to set deadlines to return to in-person learning. Riley said the decisions were made "following consultation with medical experts and state health officials."

in person learning deadlines
The timeline for returning schools to in-person learning full-time (WBZ-TV)

The reopening plan is opposed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, despite the state opening COVID vaccine appointments up to educators on Thursday.

"This guidance reflects an arrogant, top down, one size fits all view that the department knows better than educators, parents, and local school committees and quite frankly that they know better than the CDC," MTA President Merrie Najimy told WBZ.

The union says it wants kids in the classroom, but not through a state mandate.

"This decision is a hammer swung by unelected bureaucrats. It is going to upend local plans that have been thoughtfully negotiated and are in the process of being implemented. It's not the way to go. It's going to cause more harm than it will good," Najimy said.

Families will still have the option to have their child learn remotely until the end of the school year. School districts can also apply for a waiver from DESE.

"Opening up the school has definitely given me the light that we are almost through this and we can get through it," Leann Dorion said.

Almost 80% of school districts were either in-person or using a hybrid model as of mid-February.

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