Elementary schools in Mass. return to full in-person learning


FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Distance learning is over for most elementary schools in Massachusetts as students head back to the classroom for full in-person learning Monday.

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education says this move now, lays the groundwork for the fall.

As of February, 80% of school districts in the Bay State were already fully in-person, or in a hybrid model.

“I think they’re probably a little bit behind, but I think it’s good socially and I think it’s good educationally,” one parent said. “I think it’s gonna be great.”

Now that must be the case for all elementary schools, and for many, it’s going to seem like the first day of school.

In Fall River, 800 elementary students returned to school for the first time since last March, including Kaleb Gonzalez.

“I’m scared, really scared,” Gonzalez said. “I just wanna be home.”

His home has become his 4th Grade comfort zone, and also his mom’s, but today her son will join the rest of the kids at Viveiros Elementary school in Fall River.

“I’m super excited for them to be back. It’s a lot easier for us to instead of juggling the remote and in person at the same time so we’re excited to have them in person and they seem like they’re pretty happy to be back too,” 2nd Grade teacher Kayln Medeiros said.

Although there will be many sanitation stations throughout the school buildings, and no congregating will be allowed, the biggest change for students fully returning to school might be in the cafeteria.

Tables have to be six feet apart with students at assigned seats and they won’t be able to face each other. School officials say it’s for safety and contact tracing — should that be necessary.

In the classrooms, desks are three feet apart based on new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The new guidance from the CDC is one of the reasons the Department of Education was comfortable moving forward with the full in-person move. This in addition to the fact on-site testing is available for K-2 students, and teachers have had access to get vaccinated for three weeks now.

School staff say they have been doing a lot of scheduling to make sure everyone is as comfortable as they can be.

“Even just with childcare and that layer, it just allows us to kind of free up our schedules and be more available in other areas,” another parent said.

Parents still have the option to keep their children learning remotely through the end of the school year.

Middle schools in Massachusetts must fully reopen by by April 28. There is no reopening date set yet for high schools, but will be announced sometime this month with a two-week lead time to plan.

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