'A Necessary Step': Elementary Schools Prepare For Return To In-Person Learning

With some exceptions, all Massachusetts elementary schools return to in-person learning April 5. WBZ-TV's Beth Germano reports.

Video Transcript

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- Well, there will be a different kind of opening day on Monday. That's when many elementary school students will return to the classroom in person, full time. WBZ's Beth Germano is live for us in Westford tonight, where they're getting ready to welcome students back. Beth.

BETH GERMANO: And like school districts across the state, it has taken some adjustments to now accommodate all students and staff following safety protocols. Here in Westford, they have been in hybrid learning. But now for the first time this school year, it is lunch, recess and distancing five days a week.

EVERETT OLSEN: It's more difficult for all of us.

BETH GERMANO: Superintendent Dr. Everett Olsen looking at cafeteria tables six feet apart. Students unable to face each other at lunch. But the reality of getting everyone back at this Westford elementary school.

EVERETT OLSEN: It's important for children to get back to a normal routine and a school routine.

BETH GERMANO: With some exceptions, Massachusetts elementary schools will return to all in-person learning on Monday.

LORI MCDERMOTT: Big pivot, sure. It happened fast.

BETH GERMANO: Here adding desks to classrooms, three feet apart, sanitizing stations throughout, scheduling, and plenty of it.

LORI MCDERMOTT: Half of the grade level will have recess, while half of the grade level has lunch, and that allowed us to fit all of the students in the cafeteria in that one grade level.

BETH GERMANO: But the auditorium will be used for overflow, along with tents that have been set up outside, even for mask breaks. And some parents are embracing it.

- I feel that they're being safe, they're wearing their masks, and it's good for their mental health to be back in school.

- I think we'll see that the benefits outweigh the risks.

BETH GERMANO: And there's concern about an increase in COVID cases in schools across the state. As of last week, 1,045 in total, including 801 students and 244 staff.

STACEY MULHOLLAND: This is digital learning.

BETH GERMANO: Stacey Mulholland teaches only remote students. And some will stay that way, as parents have the option.

STACEY MULHOLLAND: I know there's a wide variety of reasons. Some people are coming in and some people are staying home, and I respect their decision and preference.

BETH GERMANO: But schools are trying to cover all the bases. Even lunch tables assigned, in case contact tracing is needed, ready for what seems like the first day of school.

LORI MCDERMOTT: I think for the social emotional health of the students, it's a necessary step.

BETH GERMANO: Now 58 school districts did receive waivers, but by the beginning of May, all elementary schools should be an in-person learning, with middle and high schools to follow. Reporting live from Westford, I'm Beth Germano, WBZ News.

- All right, Beth, thank you.