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7 Massachusetts School Districts To Offer Full-Time Remote Learning To Students This Fall

PEABODY (CBS) -- Throughout the pandemic there were a lot of complaints about remote learning from students, teachers and parents. But for some kids, taking classes from home was a positive, even transformative experience.

That's why administrators in Peabody applied to the state of Massachusetts to start their own K-12 remote school.

"The Peabody Personalized Remote Education Program, or Peabody PREP for short," explained Superintendent Dr. Josh Vadala.

The fully remote school was designed for kids like Anise Lopez and Matt Peabody. Both are rising sophomores, and both realized they learned better from home.

"I was nervous to go into school, social anxiety. This helps a lot to be in the comfort of my own home," Matt told WBZ-TV.

For Anise, it was more about not wanting to navigate the social 'shenanigans' as she called them, "All that extra talking. Basically, I can't focus," she said.

For other families, the decision to enroll in Peabody PREP is more about health and safety.

"The reason we chose it, my rising third-grader is immune-compromised," Meredith Parsons told WBZ.

All four of her kids stayed remote last spring and she has no qualms about keeping them home again this coming year.

"For my younger ones, the teacher just engaged them. There were slides, there was fun. They enjoyed it," she said.

Keeping it fun is Erika Sandstrom's job. As a digital media teacher, she is coaching the online teachers to bring their remote classrooms alive. She uses a green screen to help superimpose herself and students onto any background to help students visualize concepts.

"The skills [teachers] have now, they are ready to go, they are so excited," she said.

For high schoolers, the schedule will be different from their friends who attend school in person.

"We semesterized the high school," explained Assistant Superintendent and Director of Digital Learning, Dr. Chris Lord.

Freshmen and sophomores will focus strictly on English and math for the first half of the year, then study science and social studies in the spring. The upper classes will do the opposite.

"[It] gives kids time to focus on those core subjects. I'm hoping the Peabody PREP kids rock star the MCAS in March," he said.

A total of 13 districts sent applications to the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to start remote academies. Only seven -- Attleboro, Brockton, Chelsea, Peabody, Pittsfield, Springfield and Westfield -- are planning to welcome students in the Fall.

remote learning academies
Thirteen districts applied to the state to start remote learning academies. Seven will welcome students this fall. (WBZ-TV graphic)

Superintendent Vadala hopes Peabody PREP allows the district to give each kid their best opportunity to succeed.

"We want it to be innovative, we want to think outside the box and try as many options as we can for our families," he said.

Anisa is thrilled to be able to continue to get straight A's and get more sleep by avoiding the trek to and from school.

"I don't think words can describe how grateful I am," she said.

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