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Mass. Aims To Take Remote, Hybrid Learning 'Off The Table,' Bring Students Back To Classrooms

BOSTON (CBS) – Jeffrey Riley, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, announced Tuesday the state aims to have all elementary school students learning in person five days a week by April.

Riley said during Tuesday's Department of Education meeting that he plans to return within a week or two to ask for the authority to remove remote and hybrid learning as an option for school districts. The plan is contingent on state COVID metrics remaining in a safe range.

Parents would have the option for their children to learn remotely through the end of the year.

About 20% of districts are still fully remote, impacting about 400,000 students.

"At some point as metrics continue to improve we will need to take the remote and hybrid learning models off the table and return to a traditional school format," Riley said during the meeting.

The state will work on a phased-in approach to get children back in the classroom. Riley said his focus would be on bringing elementary school students back first, with the plan then likely extending to middle school grades later this year, and possibly high school as well.

There would be a waiver process for districts that need to take a more incremental approach, Riley said. As an example, he said some districts might need to first move to a hybrid model if they are currently in fully remote learning

During his Tuesday press conference, Gov. Charlie Baker said that with COVID cases and hospitalizations continuing to decline and vaccines well underway, "it's time to set our sights on eliminating remote learning by April, starting with elementary schools."

"Our administration has been clear for months that the best place for kids is in the classroom," Gov. Charlie Baker said at his Tuesday press conference. "Districts with in-person learning, regardless of how high COVID transmission is in their community, have seen few - if any - examples of in-school transmission."

Massachusetts Teachers Association president Merrie Najimy told WBZ-TV the state should instead be focused on getting educators prioritized in its vaccination plan.

"To have full in-person learning contradicts the science of six feet of distancing," Najimy said. "So what the commissioner is doing is waving a magic wand saying problems are solved, and then implementing unilateral authority and usurping the decisions of every school committee."

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