BOSTON (CBS) – The state is pressuring some school districts to get students back in the classroom. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sent a letter to 16 school districts that began the year with remote learning, despite having “very low” rates of Covid-19 transmission.
Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said he was concerned the school committees voted to keep students learning remotely to start the school year.
“In light of the stark discrepancy between local public health data and your reopening plan, I am requesting a timeline by which you anticipate providing in-person instruction for the majority of your students,” Commissioner Jeffrey Riley wrote in the letter.
The letter was sent to the following school districts:
Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public
Hoosac Valley Regional
Manchester Essex Regional
The districts that received the letter are all designated green or gray on the state’s color-coded coronavirus map. The state has recommended remote learning for only communities who have been designated “red” for three weeks in a row.
“We know that there is a lot of fear out there and different issues that are coming up,” Riley told WBZ-TV Monday afternoon. “So we just feel like we have a moral obligation to families and students to look under the hood and see how are these decisions being made and are they the appropriate ones.”
The districts have 10 days to respond to the request. Riley said that the response “may trigger an audit to assess overall efforts to provide in-person instruction.”
The Massachusetts Teachers Association calls the letter “threatening.” MTA President Merrie Najimy said, “It’s [DESE] Commissioner Riley’s typical bullying tactics to drive a reckless agenda of pushing education communities back into school buildings against their will.”
Najimy said she believes the pressure from the Department of Education is undermining local decisions to keep kids remote. “[The letter] felt very much to us like ‘you better give me my plan or we will subject you to an audit,'” she said.