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Baker Announces Plan To Get Students Back In Classroom

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Gov. Baker and the Education Commissioner announced a plan to get students back into the classroom by April. WBZ-TV's Paul Burton reports.

Video Transcript

- Back here at home, State leaders are putting a new plan in place to get children back into the classroom full time, starting with the youngest students. The education commissioner and the governor announced today that the State wants to have all elementary school students learning, in person, five days a week, by April. WBZ-TV's Paul Burton is live in Boston for us tonight. And Paul, some parents love this, some don't, and the teachers union seems worried.

PAUL BURTON: David, there so many varying opinions surrounding this issue. Nevertheless, Governor Charlie Baker says there's no substitute for in-person learning, and the time to act is now.

CHARLIE BAKER: It's time to set our sights on eliminating remote learning by April, and starting with elementary schools.

PAUL BURTON: Speaking alongside the commissioner of education, our Governor Charlie Baker says it's time to begin the process of full fledged in-person learning. Commissioner Geoffrey Reilly is now asking the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for the authority to determine when the hybrid and remote models no longer count for learning hours.

JEFFREY RILEY: If I am granted this authority, I would take a phased-in approach to returning students to the classroom. My focus would be on bringing back elementary students first.

PAUL BURTON: The commissioner pointed to case rates declining, pool testing being made available, and the vaccine rollout continuing, are reasons to bring back as many students to in-person learning as possible.

MERRIE NAJIMY: So what the commissioner is doing is waving a magic wand, saying the problems are solved.

PAUL BURTON: The Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy believes this move would only create more issues.

MERRIE NAJIMY: Vaccination of educators is not in sight. To have full in-person learning contradicts the science of six feet of distancing.

PAUL BURTON: Currently 80% of districts have in-person learning, whether hybrid or fully in-person, and 20% are still fully remote. Parents would have the option for their children to learn remotely through the end of the year. Something Amanda Brainard strongly supports.

AMANDA BRAINARD: My kindergartner-- her only experience with school has been remote. So I just feel like it would be a huge adjustment to send her back to school just to finish two months.

PAUL BURTON: Trish Kapur has two kids in the Belmont school system. Her 2nd grader is hybrid-learning and strongly supports returning to the classroom for his own mental health.

TRISH KAPUR: I've seen some behavioral changes in him, that the frustration is building. The days that he wakes up going into school are completely different than the days he knows he's going to be home all day.

PAUL BURTON: And Commissioner Riley says he will present his plan to the school board in the coming weeks, which they will then vote on. Reporting live in Boston, I'm Paul Burton WBZ News.