BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said that while high school students will only be returning for in-person learning for a short time before summer, it is critical for them to get back into the classroom after a full year away.

Riley announced Tuesday that all schools will be required to bring high school students back for full in-person learning by May 17.

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“Obviously, this has been really challenging for high school seniors who have been out of school for over a year,” Riley said in an interview with CBSN Boston Wednesday. “But I think being allowed to come back will allow them to have some sense of closure in their high school careers.”

Middle school students were required to return to in-person learning beginning this week in Massachusetts.

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“We think every day of school is crucial, we’ve seen the effects, in and out of school, not just on the academics but on their social emotional health. So we think as soon as we can get kids back to school, we need to do so,” Riley said.

When asked how the state plans to help students catch up after so much disruption due to the COVID pandemic, Riley said it’s a multi-year approach that starts right away. That will include in-person summer school, acceleration academies and other programs.

“We’re not waiting for the fall. We’re starting this summer,” Riley said.

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Riley also discussed COVID vaccines for students. He said the state does not anticipate vaccine clinics being set up in schools at this time, but “supply is more available than it’s ever been before.” Staff