BOSTON (CBS) — All high school students should be in classrooms for full-time, in-person learning by May 17, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey Riley announced Tuesday.

Many districts are ahead of schedule. According to DESE, there are 146 school districts with fully in-person for kindergarten through 12th grade. By the mid-May deadline, 198 school districts plan to be back fully in-person for all grade levels, which is two-thirds of all high schools in the state.

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“Districts and schools should make every effort to have high school students with significant and complex disabilities or high school students who are English learners return to full-time, in-person learning prior to the deadline,” the announcement added.

Last year’s high school juniors – who sympathized for seniors’ abrupt ending to high school, have found themselves in a similar spot. COVID hasn’t gone away.

“It’s been really tough. I know a lot of people who are on 504s and IEPs who, at home learning, was not working at all,” said Waltham High School senior Jessica McPherson. “Sports have been a lot different. Restrictions from the MIAA, rules and regulations that are so different from normal years.”

The return does not leave a lot of time together for seniors like those in Waltham.

“Only five days, yeah,” said Waltham senior Matthew Cercone. “Bittersweet but it’s good that we’re all back together once.”

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So while some towns may already have a few fully-in person weeks under their belts, there’s no denying it’s been a tough year for everyone. Waltham students keep looking on the bright side.

“It’d be kind of sad if you closed your computer and you were done with high school,” Jessica McPherson said.

“We’re thankful for that one week together,” Cercone said.

School districts have been using a phased-in approach to send students safely back into school buildings, beginning with the highest-risk and youngest students.

Students can elect to continue remote learning through the year.

“We believe it’s critical to get all of our kids back with their teachers and their peers, to learn and socialize, and to have a chance, in this very long and difficult year, to be a kid,” said Gov. Charlie Baker.

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The state has continued to provide COVID-19 pool testing to schools.

CBSBoston.com Staff