BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and the state’s education commissioner had a strong message Thursday for cities and towns that started the school year remotely even though they have low coronavirus transmission rates.
“We think kids should be in school, and we think communities should be following the rules and the guidance that was developed,” Baker told reporters at a briefing at the State House.
Education Commissioner Jeff Riley sent a letter to school districts in 16 cities and towns earlier this week, asking them for their plans to return to in-person learning.
“If you are in a low risk district and you’ve been a low risk district now for weeks, and you have no plans to return to in-person learning, when most people in the education and the public health and the pediatric community all believe that in-person learning – especially for young kids – is a critical part of their educational and social development, we want to know what your plan is to get back,” Baker said. “I don’t think that’s bullying. I think it’s a perfectly appropriate question to ask on behalf of the people of those communities and especially the kids.”
Baker repeated his demand that he wants school districts to use three weeks of coronavirus data in their town when changing school plans.
“This goes both ways too. I mean if you’re a red district for three weeks or more, our recommendation is that you go remote. We’re asking people to really follow what the doctors have built for us,” Riley said.
The commissioner described what’s involved in an audit of the districts.
“It’s a focus on what’s happening remotely and what that looks like, what the instruction looks like, instructional hours, things like that. But it also looks at the entirety of the district, from our special education students being served, second language learners. What’s the quality of the curriculum? It’s kind of a soup to nuts,” the commissioner said.
The school districts have until next week to respond to the state’s request for their plans for in-person learning.