By Kristina Rex

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts school districts have until Friday, Aug. 14, to submit plans for in-person, hybrid and remote learning for the fall. As that deadline approaches, protests are emerging across the state — with parents and teachers demanding their voices be heard.

On the steps of the State House on Wednesday afternoon, a small group of parents and students, many from Westwood, demanded kids be sent back to full in-person learning in a few weeks in communities with low COVID-19 infection rates.

Tuesday, the governor’s office released a color-coded map identifying low- to high-risk communities for COVID-19 spread. Governor Charlie Baker said he encourages communities in the white or green zone to send kids back to school this fall either fully in person or in a hybrid model.

A group outside the Massachusetts State House rallies for in person learning (WBZ-TV)

For parents like Antigone Grasso, of Westwood, who protested on Beacon Hill, that guidance isn’t enough.

“There’s still no clarity,” Grasso told WBZ-TV. “It needs to be crystal clear. There can be no room for interpretation.” She wants the governor to mandate that communities in white or green zones send their kids back to school this fall. “I saw the isolation and screen time and what it did to my children, and it was a mess,” she said of her two children. “They were frustrated, and they were angry.”

Just an hour later in Lowell on Wednesday, more than 100 teachers and staff gathered outside City Hall to protest school reopening with what they consider to be decaying, unsafe buildings.

Lowell teachers protest outside City Hall demanding safer school buildings (WBZ-TV)

“I’m very nervous about going back because I do not feel like the buildings are safe,” Lowell elementary music teacher Rachel Crawford said. The teachers’ union said the buildings have been in bad shape for years, and they have asked for them to be updated. Now, they are demanding they be fixed and certified by a third-party company to prove they are safe for students and staff in the pandemic.

“It’s absolutely frustrating,” said Susan Uvanni, a second-grade teacher in Lowell. “We are three weeks out from school, and we don’t know what’s happening. … I’m not willing to risk my students or my colleagues or myself or my family.”

One by one, schools are beginning to release their plans. On Wednesday, the city of Lawrence announced it’ll start with a remote school year in the fall.

For Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh said the decision will be data-driven, but school will not be fully in-person come fall. Full in-person learning “could be dangerous to our kids and families,” he said.

One thing all sides agree on is that remote learning is not ideal for children.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” Grasso said.

“It was a big struggle,” another Lowell teacher told WBZ-TV. “Especially in our district. We have lots of parents who don’t speak English, a lot of students who don’t have access to the Internet or who didn’t have their own device.”

Kristina Rex

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