Mass. Aims To Take Remote, Hybrid Learning 'Off The Table,' Bring Students Back To Classrooms

WBZ-TV's Nick Giovanni reports.

Video Transcript

PAULA EBBEN: Development in the push to get Massachusetts students back in the classroom-- the elementary and secondary education commissioner says he wants the authority to eliminate the options for remote or hybrid learning once he believes it's safe enough to do so. So the goal would be to get all elementary school students learning in person five days a week by April. Thanks for joining us here at noontime. I'm Paula Ebben. There's a lot to break down in this new plan from the state. WBZ's Nick Giovanni shows us what it means for parents, students, and teachers.

JEFFREY RILEY: At this point, with the robust mitigation strategies we have in place and all the data and evidence we have in hand, it's time to begin the process of getting more of our kids back to school.

NICK GIOVANNI: Commissioner Jeffrey Riley leading off this morning's meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education by laying the groundwork for a potential full-fledged return to in-person learning in the not-too-distant future.

JEFFREY RILEY: I will be coming before this board in the next week or two to ask you to authorize me to determine how best to come out of this pandemic and back to the traditional school model.

NICK GIOVANNI: The commissioner pointing to case rates declining, pool testing being made available, and the vaccine rollout continuing as reasons to bring back as many students to in-person learning as possible, starting with elementary school students.

JEFFREY RILEY: Ideally, my initial goal is to bring all elementary school students back to in-person learning five days a week this April. Parents would still have the option for the children to learn remotely through the end of the year. And there will be a waiver process for districts who may need to take a more incremental approach, for example, to first move to a hybrid model if they are currently in fully remote.

MERRIE NAJIMY: Vaccination of educators is not in sight. There's no mention of the ventilations need to still be fixed. To have full in-person learning contradicts the science of six feet of distancing. So what the commissioner is doing is waving a magic wand, saying the problems are solved, and then implementing unilateral authority and usurping the decisions of every school committee.

NICK GIOVANNI: Massachusetts Teachers Association president Merrie Najimy argues the focus for now should be on getting teachers vaccinated. As for next steps toward in-person learning, she says let that be navigated at the local level.

MERRIE NAJIMY: Problems are being solved local by local between the teacher-- the problems are being solved local by local between the educators' unions and the school committees. We need the state, instead of to impose unilateralism, to give us the support and resources to make this project work.

NICK GIOVANNI: In March, Commissioner Riley says he plans to ask the board to give him the authority to decide when hybrid and remote models will no longer count toward learning hours, assuming health metrics continue to improve. Reporting in Cambridge, Nick Giovanni, WBZ News.

PAULA EBBEN: The secretary of education--