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Baker: 'Vast Majority' Of Massachusetts Schools Open After Winter Break, Despite COVID Concerns

SALEM (CBS) -- Gov. Charlie Baker highlighted the return to in-person learning at Massachusetts schools on Monday, even as some districts delayed the resumption of classes post-winter break to allow more time for COVID-19 testing as cases surge to record levels.

"The vast majority of the school districts and schools in Massachusetts are opening today, which I think is incredibly important," Baker said in a news conference at the Saltonsall School in Salem.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association had called for all schools to stay closed on Monday for testing, which Baker's administration rejected.

"There was all kinds of talk last week about how school wouldn't open in Massachusetts today," Baker said. "School did, pretty much across the Commonwealth."

Baker acknowledged that staffing issues for districts "will be complicated" due to illness and said his office will "do whatever we can to help people work their way through it." He also said many cities and towns could look to federal funding as a "terrific tool" to address staff shortages.

Another teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, last week called for a return to remote learning until the Omicron wave subsides. Baker said that while districts can use snow days to cancel classes if needed, they won't be excused from in-person learning requirements.

"The rules here are pretty simple. We count in-person school as school," he said. "Under state law you are required to provide 180 in-person days of school each year. We expect every school and every school district to deliver on that 180 days."

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