By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Sec. of Education Jim Peyser said the process of getting students back in school is not moving fast enough, but he hopes a new testing program being expanded by the state will help more children return to the classroom.

“The first priority has to be to bring as many students as we possibly can back into their schools, back into their classrooms with their teachers, with their peers for in-person instruction as soon as possible,” Peyser told WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller. “That is happening, but on an unfortunately too slow basis.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments

This week, the state plans to expand its “pooled” testing program to more school districts. Hundreds of schools have expressed interest in joining the program.

Pooled testing allows labs to test up to 20 samples at once. Any batch that comes back positive would lead to rapid tests for individuals in the group.

Peyser said the state is “very hopeful” expanding pooled testing will allow districts to accelerate in-person learning.

READ MORE: 'It's Panic': CareWell Urgent Care Patients Concerned 2nd Vaccine Doses Will Be Canceled

“I am hopeful (teachers unions) will see, because they have certainly made this point themselves, that in-person instruction remains the gold standard for teaching and learning and we need to get back to that as soon as possible,” Peyerson said.

According to Peyser, about 15% of schools in Massachusetts are learning fully in person, 20% are fully remote and the remainder are in a hybrid model.

“The evidence is clear schools are safe places to be for both students and adults,” said Peyser. “It’s happening around the state, around the country, and across the world even. The research is backing up that almost every step of the way that it’s probably safer to be at school than at home.”

MORE NEWS: Rep. Pressley, Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition Praise Reggie Lewis Center's Mass Vaccination Site

Keller @ Large: Part 2

Jon Keller