By Beth Germano

WATERTOWN (CBS) – It’s a break time at the playground for a group of Watertown children who are at home learning remotely, and parent Maya Hanna says a majority wanted it that way. “They asked all the parents, the decision didn’t come on their own, and I support what they did,” said Hanna.

But the state says Watertown is one district that should have brought students back in-person at least part-time because it’s a community with consistently low transmission rates for covid-19.

“We know there’s a possibility of a second spike. But while in a situation of green or gray for many weeks, bring kids back to school in person or a hybrid model,” said Jeffrey Riley, commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The colors refer to a new map that provides districts with weekly health data to offer guidance. Last week a letter was sent to 16 low risk school districts, telling them to submit a return to school plan or possibly face an audit. That didn’t sit well with the head of the Watertown Teachers Union. “The letter was bullish and it was somewhat threatening,” said Deb King, president of the union.

At his daily briefing Thursday, Governor Baker even brought in the Quincy Superintendent of Schools to showcase his district’s back in the classroom learning plan which has grades k-3 in the classroom now, and 4-12 starting October 13. “If we have the capacity to bring students back safely we owe it to our students to do so,” said Supt. Kevin Mulvey.

King says Watertown has told the state they will start to bring students back later in October when the district looks at, and is confident, in the data then. “We put endless hours working on a safe return to school. Suddenly they don’t like our answer or decision and are stepping in now,” said King.

She says in Watertown it’s still about safety, but the district may have to prove it.

Beth Germano

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