MASSACHUSETTS

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

An empty classroom.
Violet Jiang / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/124094550@N02

Schools in Massachusetts are deciding whether to start the year with in-person classes. Governor Charlie Baker says he wants local school committees to make the call, but he's making his own opinion pretty clear.

Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni.
Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

A Massachusetts civil rights group has asked the Hampden County District Attorney’s office to divulge how much it knew about misconduct by Springfield police officers, and how it’s responded.

Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke, Massachusetts, speaks to reporters during the launch of his congressional campaign on July 22, 2019.
Jerrey Roberts / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

Alex Morse says he is staying in the race for Congress. In a statement posted to social media Sunday night, the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, defended himself against allegations he engaged in inappropriate behavior involving college students, while again apologizing for "making some students feel uncomfortable."

Alex Morse in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 2015.
Creative Commons

Updated at 3:56 p.m.

Calling the allegations "serious and deeply concerning," UMass Amherst said Saturday it was investigating whether Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse violated university policy or federal law during his time teaching on campus.

This comes after the Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported that the College Democrats of Massachusetts wrote the mayor a letter accusing him of using his “position of power for romantic or sexual gain.” 

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
Greg Saulmon / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood in Springfield, Massachusetts, said this week her department has not changed its use-of-force policy, despite a scathing federal report and suggestions from the City Council.

Massachusetts Gov. Baker Orders New Enforcement, Gathering Size Limit

Aug 7, 2020
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on July 31.
State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is indefinitely postponing the next step of the state's reopening in response to the uptick in COVID-19 cases that Massachusetts has seen in recent weeks.

The campus of UMass Amherst.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Updated 4:25 p.m.

UMass Amherst has reversed its plans to allow students to decide whether to return to campus housing.

Teachers outside the Boland Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts, prepare to hand out laptops on April 6, 2020.
Alden Bourne / NEPR

The public schools in Springfield, Massachusetts, will keep classes remote-only through at least the first few months of the year. 

How Markey And Kennedy Are Working For Workers

Aug 6, 2020

When the Democratic primary between Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy began, Massachusetts boasted one of the strongest economies in the country.

Now, the candidates find themselves representing the state with the nation’s highest unemployment rate. Roughly 1 million people in Massachusetts remain out of work, according federal data released Thursday.

Many people who have no symptoms can still carry very high levels of the coronavirus and potentially spread it, according to preliminary research from the Broad Institute in Cambridge that was based on mass testing in Massachusetts nursing homes.

The gates of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
File Photo / Daily Hampshire Gazette

Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, had planned to bring a reduced number of students back to campus for the fall semester, and give faculty the choice of teaching online or in person. In a reversal, the college now says it will offer only distance learning.

Mary Owens Lindenschmid with her grandchildren in the late 1990s. From left, Kenneth Mick III, Mary Mick and Karl Mick.
Courtesy Kenneth Mick-Evans

More than 900 western Massachusetts residents have now died of the coronavirus. Among them is Mary Owens Lindenschmid, who was 91 when she died of complications from COVID-19. 

Before the first wave of COVID-19 infections hit Massachusetts last spring, nobody was sure exactly when it would arrive. Experts only knew that it was on the way. By the time testing showed cases were rising dramatically, thousands of people had already caught the coronavirus.

“You’re behind the virus. You’re chasing it, always trying to catch up, and speed is absolutely of the essence,” says William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. “The pace with which some of our response has taken place has just been too slow for it.”

School Committees Face Tough Reopening Decisions

Aug 4, 2020
MAXPIXEL.NET / CREATIVE COMMONS

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 / Masslive.com/photos

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 / flickr.com/photos/photophiend

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.

DON MCCULLOUGH / CREATIVE COMMONS

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.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette headquarters in Northampton.
File Photo / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

The owner of The Daily Hampshire Gazette is putting its 45,000-square-foot headquarters in Northampton, Massachusetts, up for sale. But it plans to keep the paper based in the city.

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.

Schoolwork.
Jimmie / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/jimmiehomeschoolmom

As school districts in Massachusetts submit their fall proposals to the state, many parents are coming up with their own contingency plans. 

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.

The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, the site of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in a Mass. nursing home, is once again suspending all outside visitors. The move comes one day after a veteran who had “clinically recovered” from COVID-19 started showing symptoms and was transferred to a local hospital where he tested virus-positive, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services said.

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