Baker aims to phase out remote learning for elementary schools by April

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BOSTON (WPRI) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday he wants to start getting students statewide back in the classroom full-time.

He said the plan is to start with elementary school students, with the hope of phasing out remote learning by April.

“I think we all agree there is no substitute for in-person learning, especially for kids in elementary school,” Baker said.

About 80% of Massachusetts’ school districts have some form of in-person learning in place, according to Baker, whether it be in full or a hybrid model.

“Districts with in-person learning, regardless of how high COVID transmission is in their community, have seen few, if any, examples of in-school transmission,” he added.

The remaining 20% of districts are fully remote, which Baker said affects roughly 400,000 kids.

“With COVID cases and hospitalizations continuing to decline and vaccines well underway, it’s time to set our sights on eliminating remote learning by April,” he stated.

The governor pointed to the tools they have given schools to reopen, including their weekly pool testing program that launched earlier this year, which he says 900 schools currently participate in.

“The evidence on this one is crystal clear and has been for months: it’s safe to teach kids in the classroom, regardless of community transmission rates, as long as people abide by the protocols,” Baker said.

Mass. Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said he’s hoping all elementary school students will be learning in person five days a week by April, adding that those who are fully remote will be able to begin with a hybrid approach.

“It continues to be vital that we get as many students back in person as possible before the end of the school year,” he said.

Riley said parents will still be able to choose to keep their student at home through the end of the school year.

Mass. Department of Health reported 1,114 newly confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday, and an additional 30 people had died after contracting the virus.

The data shows 879 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with 225 patients in the intensive care unit and 147 on ventilators.

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