By Ken MacLeod

LEOMINSTER (CBS) – Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella has made a drastic step to get kids back in the classroom. He declared a public health crisis to get the school committee’s attention. He says the city has good Covid-19 numbers and having kids at home is causing a crisis.

Despite Covid metrics in the “green”, schools in Leominster are fully remote and because of that the mayor says many parents are furious and he doesn’t blame them.

The emergency meeting called by the mayor Monday night took a strange turn when the rest of school committee left to attend a previously scheduled workshop, leaving the mayor to fly solo in his anger over why Leominster school kids are fully remote.

“We’re at green, we’re at the lowest numbers we had,” Mazzarella told WBZ Monday night. “It’s time to get kids back into school, and if they’re not going to do it, then I’m going to do it.”

Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella (WBZ-TV)

Before the meeting went off the rails, several parents complained that remote learning wasn’t working for their kids.

“Watching my child fail, and a generation of children being intellectually crippled is so disheartening, that not speaking up just seems wrong at this point,” said parent Daniel Fenner.

The mayor says he’s fielded countless complaints from working parents unable to stay home and supervise their children and he argues that at the very least, grades one through three and special education kids need hybrid learning — right now.

“What I’m feeling is that we are not just holding our students back, we are holding our teachers back,” said parent Gregory Thomas.

In fact, the mayor says a survey of parents and teachers showed solid support for in-person school, but not everyone agrees.

“I am not comfortable with even one single death of a student, staff or one of their family members because we didn’t do this right,” one parent said.

Which is why even in “green” Leominster, some committee members argued that fully remote was the only safe option.

“I think part of the reason Leominster is doing well is because so far, we have stayed remote,” school committee member Michael Stassen said.

But that didn’t stop the mayor from declaring the downsides of remote learning as a public health crisis and he is pledging to find places in the coming days — like the Boys and Girls Club — where kids can go and get their lessons — with adult supervision.

“If we have to rent space, we’ll rent space but help is on the way,” Mazzarella said.

It’s not clear exactly how the declaration of a public health crisis changes things but some school committee members say they’re already eyeing a shift to hybrid learning on November 9.

Ken MacLeod

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