Coverage of Massachusetts from New England Public Radio, NPR, and other NPR stations.

School Committees Face Tough Reopening Decisions

10 hours ago

Massachusetts education officials are reviewing school districts' initial reopening plans and expect to issue guidance on athletics and extracurricular activities next week, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday.

 A Black Lives Matter rally in front of Nathan Bill's Bar and Restaurant in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican /

Springfield's police commissioner, Cheryl Clapprood, has acknowledged no changes have been made to the department's use-of-force policy. This comes two months after the department said Clapprood accepted suggestions offered by the City Council.

Out on the flat, rock-carpeted roof of the West Somerville Neighborhood School, consultant Scott LeClair steps up to an air handler unit as big as a semi-trailer.

He opens a metal panel and pulls out a filter shaped like a pizza box.

“This unit’s actually sending the air into the building,” he explains. “We’re looking to see what types of filters they have and what level they can filter to,” so the filters can be upgraded if possible.

The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.
William Zhang / Creative Commons

Goodbye, Massachusetts Joint Rule 12A — and hello, months of drawn-out negotiations in the state legislature. 

The Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford.
Photo Phiend / Creative Commons /

This week, the Connecticut Senate passed a police accountability bill, which its colleagues in the House passed last week. It changes how misconduct cases are investigated, clarifies when deadly force can be used, and bans chokeholds in most cases.


The delicate balancing act of anticipating electric demand before and during the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown electricity suppliers, regulators and customers an unwelcome surprise this summer: massive jumps on electric bills. 

A new survey led by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy coalition (MIRA) suggests many immigrant households in the state are struggling with unemployment as well as food and housing insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Historic Massachusetts Legislative Session To Continue Beyond Traditional Deadline

Jul 31, 2020
Massachusetts Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Rep. Ronald Mariano speak in outside the House chamber.
State House News Service

The notorious July 31 date is not looming over Massachusetts lawmakers in the same way as usual this year.

Massachusetts lawmakers are working to reconcile their differences over police reform, with a joint House-Senate committee working on a compromise that can pass both chambers and be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

One area where the two chambers differ involves changes to qualified immunity, the doctrine that protects police officers and other public officers from lawsuits. Police unions have been fighting to keep it unchanged, while others want it abolished.

As schools around Massachusetts look to bring students back into the classroom this fall, education and public health leaders are looking to the latest research to guide schools’ reopening safely. But experts say that the science on how easily COVID-19 can spread in schools is still very uncertain.

Massachusetts House Session Extension Advances Amidst COVID-19, Bill Crunch

Jul 29, 2020
The empty Massachusetts House chamber.
State of Massachusetts

Massachusetts House lawmakers on Wednesday took a key step towards striking from their calendar a Friday deadline for passing major bills, which legislators have been working toward for the past year and a half.

It’s been compared to a colonoscopy.

The vetting of potential vice presidents is famously invasive, and it’s going on now.

Mass. Schools To Start 2 Weeks Later After State, Teachers Union Ink Planning Period Deal

Jul 28, 2020
Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley in June 2020.
Pat Greenhouse / Boston Globe / pool / State House News Service

Officials in Massachusetts signed a memorandum of understanding (PDF) Monday that will officially reduce the 180-day school year requirement to 170 days. The agreement accommodates a 10-day period for districts to prepare to reopen school buildings that have been closed since March.

Massachusetts House Judiciary Chair Claire Cronin and Rep. Paul Tucker, a retired police chief, conversed in a chamber entryway.
Sam Doran / State House News Servic

The Massachusetts House and Senate have both passed their own bills changing some rules for police in the state. Now, the hard part: working out their differences before the session ends.

COVID-19 Case Counts On The Rise Again In Massachusetts

Jul 27, 2020
A packaged COVID-19 test at the Urgent Care Center of Connecticut in Bloomfield on March 25.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

There were nearly 500 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Massachusetts over the weekend, and the percentage of tests that come back positive for the coronavirus is rising.

Despite agreeing on most issues, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III found plenty to argue about in their latest debate Sunday night, five weeks before the Sept. 1 primary. They sparred about their records, who is the most progressive and who is best prepared to lead during a pandemic and a racial justice movement.

Maggie Melchiorre of Lyonsville Farm wears a mask as she helps a customer at the Greenfield Farmers Market in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Mary Byrne / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

Some members of the Massachusetts public expressed their displeasure on Friday about a proposed state regulation that would formalize the mask order Governor Charlie Baker issued in early May.

When Massachusetts urgently needed masks and other supplies for frontline workers facing a surge of infections, the federal agency handling protective gear sent large shipments to states with smaller populations and far fewer coronavirus cases.

Massachusetts recently announced that it was ending its pandemic moratorium on reusable shopping bags, saying towns could go back to reinforcing their bans on single-use plastic bags. 

Meanwhile, New Hampshire and many other states are still not letting shoppers bring their reusable bags to stores. But is that actually helping to slow the spread of coronavirus?

Pause on Evictions, Foreclosures Extended To Oct. 17 Across Massachusetts

Jul 21, 2020
Foreclosure sign.
Niall Kennedy / Creative Commons /

Most evictions and foreclosure will remain banned in Massachusetts until Oct. 17 under an extension to the COVID-prompted moratorium Gov. Charlie Baker triggered on Tuesday.

Newly released videos filmed by Boston police during last year’s “Operation Clean Sweep” show what attorneys say are the unconstitutional stops of dozens of people near the South Bay House of Correction.

Rich Hall at Wilbraham and Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.
Wilbraham and Monson Library / Creative Commons

Some private schools in western Massachusetts say the uncertainty over how public schools will operate this fall has led to a significant jump in inquiries from prospective parents.

Classroom chairs. / Creative Commons

Some staff at a Holyoke, Massachusetts, school for special needs students are alarmed that they’ve been called back into the building for in-person instruction; they don’t believe it’s safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, or beneficial to students.

UMass Pairs Tuition Freeze With Layoffs, Spending Cuts

Jul 20, 2020
UMass President Marty Meehan, in a file photo, at WBUR.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

The University of Massachusetts system, the third-largest employer in the state, will cut about 6% of its full-time equivalent workforce and furlough thousands as part of its efforts to close a $264 million budget gap ripped open by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Springfield, Massachusetts, police and detectives at the scene of a shooting in 2017.
Patrick Johnson / creative commons /

There's less than two weeks left in the legislative session and Massachusetts lawmakers say they're working hard to pass a bill addressing police accountability.

Rev. Rashaan Hall speaks outside the Massachusetts Statehouse Friday, July 17, 2020. Hall is the racial justice program director at ACLU Massachusetts, and said qualified immunity has allowed police officers to escape civil liability.
Chris Van Buskirk / State House News Service

The Massachusetts Senate passed police reform legislation this week that looks to ban chokeholds, create a certification process for police, and limit the use of tear gas, among other things. The bill now moves on the House.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate in June climbed to 17.4%, the highest in the country, even as some businesses in the state gradually reopened and rehired workers, according to federal data published Friday.

The state jobless rate increased 0.8 points from May’s revised mark of 16.6%, which had been an all-time high. Massachusetts was one of five states in which unemployment rates rose in June; rates declined in 42 others.

The national unemployment rate is 11.1%.

Eric Giroux, whose novel "Ring On Deli" is about a grocery store in an old Massachusetts mill town. Decades earlier, it had a pig farm, and now feral boars occasionally appear downtown.
Courtesy Eric Giroux

For his first novel, “Ring On Deli,” Eric Giroux used a bit of his own teen experience working at the local Market Basket, a family-owned New England grocery chain. 

Mass. Lawmakers: Replacing State Flag, Seal On State Senate Agenda

Jul 16, 2020
A group of Indigenous people, advocates, and lawmakers gathered outside the Massachusetts Statehouse Thursday, July 16, 2020, calling on the legislature to redesign the state's flag and motto.
Chris Van Buskirk / State House News Service

Three distinct rallies entangled into a mass group of advocates on the Massachusetts Statehouse steps Thursday, with one group calling for a redesign of the state's flag and motto out of respect for Native Americans. It was a moment that spoke to the political charge permeating the state amid debate over racial justice and pandemic impacts.

It’s a busy weekday at the Greater Boston Food Bank, where a large warehouse in Boston’s South End supplies some 550 soup kitchens and food pantries throughout the region.

At the heart of the operation are about 25 workers — the ones who unpack food pallets and pack up orders for shipment.

Damian Reynoso of Hyde Park knows from his own experience why the work he does matters, why he gets to work at 4 in the morning.