By Paul Burton

SAUGUS (CBS) – Public schools in Saugus will remain closed, which means students like 13-year-old Hannah McGonigle must continue with remote learning.

“All I know is that we were supposed to go back to school, and then last night we got an email saying were ware not going back at all. I was devastated.” Hannah said.

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Saugus’s public schools have been closed since last spring. School officials had hoped to reopen with a hybrid model, but the school committee voted unanimously to put that on pause after listening to Superintendent David DeRuosi talk about the increase in COVID-19 cases. Right now, 95 students and 12 staff have the coronavirus.

Saugus students like 13-year-old Hannah McGonigle must continue with remote learning. (WBZ-TV)

“Parents are worried about putting kids back to school. They concerned with interactions with other children and families going on in town,” DeRuosi said.

Hannah’s mother, Nicole Starrett, said many children like her own are really struggling with remote learning and parents should have the option to send their kids back into the classroom.

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“She’s struggling and failing most of her classes and easily distracted being home by herself,” Starrett said.

Saugus School Committee Chairman Tom Whittredge said these are hard decisions. “I promised these kids I would get them back to school on Tuesday. But I also promised I would keep them healthy, and that promise I couldn’t follow through on with all these cases coming in,” Whittredge said.

Starrett says there’s more to it than just the virus. “Sure, the safety in terms of the COVID-19 numbers is important but also just as important is the mental health of these students. My daughter has been a shut-in for like a year,” Starrett said.

As for Hannah, it’s another hard lesson in patience being learned outside the classroom. “I was excited because maybe going back to school may help me raise my grades,” she said.

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The schools will remain closed until more people, including school personnel, are vaccinated.

Paul Burton