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Regional News

Massachusetts K-12 Schools To Remain Closed Through Academic Year

Easthampton High School.
Mary Serreze
/
The Republican / masslive.com/photos
Easthampton High School.

Updated at 8:23 p.m.

Massachusetts school buildings will remain closed to students for the rest of this school year, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday, a dramatic step aimed at preventing a rebound in COVID-19 transmission once the state emerges from the worst of the outbreak. 

Baker also ordered non-emergency child care programs to remain closed until June 29.

K-12 schools had been closed until May 4 under Baker's most recent executive order, and Tuesday's announcement extends the physical shutdown through the end of the academic year. Remote learning will continue this spring, he said.

During a Tuesday press conference, Baker warned that COVID-19 is "an insidious and at times invisible virus."

"It's the right thing to do considering the facts on the ground associated with the COVID-19 pandemic," he said. "At this point in time, there is no authoritative guidance or advisory with respect to how to operate schools safely and how to get students to and from schools safely. We believe students therefore cannot safely return to school and avoid the risk of transmitting the virus to others."

In Springfield, Superintendent Dan Warwick said he feels badly for high school seniors who'll miss out on end-of-year activities, such as a traditional graduation.

"It's a milestone that kids work for for years," Warwick said. "And our graduations are really a point of celebration and accomplishment for our kids and their families. And it's something we hate to see them missing."

On April 10, Baker signed a law allowing Education Commissioner Jeff Riley to vacate MCAS testing for the year and instructing the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to modify or waive graduation requirements.

Massachusetts is in the midst of the coronavirus surge, with confirmed cases surpassing 41,000 in the administration's Tuesday afternoon daily update.

Nearly 2,000 residents have died as a result of the highly infectious virus, which public health experts warn can be spread even by those who are showing no symptoms.

Some superintendents said they hope to be able to hold in-person summer school, for students who need it. And North Adams Superintendent Barbara Malkas said opening schools in the fall will depend on the community taking efforts to flatten and get beyond the curve — through things like social distancing.

"The quicker we get on the other side of the curve, the quicker we get to a place of being able to return to school," she said. "That's the gatekeeper."

Several other governors have shuttered schools in their states into the summer, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. 

This story was mostly written by Chris Lisinski of State House News Service, with additional reporting from NEPR's Adam Frenier.

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