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Education Commissioner To Request Authority To Start Winding Down Remote, Hybrid Learning In Schools

BOSTON (CBS) - Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley will formally ask the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Friday to give him the authority to start the process of ending remote and hybrid learning.

Riley first announced his intentions during a Department of Education meeting last week. The board will meet again Friday afternoon at its headquarters in Malden.

"With the extensive mitigation strategies in place and as state health metrics continue to improve, we now need to begin shifting away from remote and hybrid learning models and return to the in-person educational format," Riley wrote in a memorandum to the board on Wednesday.

He wants the board to give him the authority "to determine when hybrid and remote models will no longer count towards meeting the required student learning time hours."

If the panel approves, Riley said the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will then ask for public comment.

"I will bring the amendments back to the Board, with any changes resulting from the public comment, for final adoption at the Board's meeting in May 2021."

Riley said last week that parents would have the option for their children to learn remotely through the end of the year.

About 20-percent of school districts are still fully remote, impacting about 400,000 students in Massachusetts.

Riley wants a phased-in approach to get children back in the classroom, starting with elementary school students in April. That would then extend to middle school grades next and then those in high school.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association opposed the move last week, saying the state should instead be focused on getting educators prioritized in its vaccination plan. That changed Wednesday when Gov. Charlie Baker announced they'll be eligible for vaccines, starting Thursday, March 11. Teachers are also eligible to get vaccinated at CVS pharmacies in Massachusetts now under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

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