Commissioner of Education shares initial guidance to reopen schools in fall

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Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Riley on Thursday delivered his much-anticipated report addressing the possibility of schools reopening in the fall.

While Riley noted there will be more updates and that schools should be prepared for the possibility of remote learning for at least some students — those with underlying medical conditions, and perhaps more depending on the trajectory of COVID-19 — he indicated that current medical research supports a safe in-person return to school with preventive measures in place. Those measures include masks for Grades 2 and up (recommended but not required for Grade 1 and younger students), masks for all adults, physical distancing (3 feet minimum), hand-washing and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.

“At this time, the evidence suggests schools have not played a significant role in COVID-19 transmission and that children, particularly younger children, are less likely than adults to be infected with COVID-19,” the report reads. “Furthermore, if they become infected, it appears children may be less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others. Based on these initial findings, the health and safety requirements throughout this guidance, as well as considering the key features of school programming at different grade spans, the current evidence supports a safe in-person return to school with implementation details varying for elementary schools (including pre-kindergarten programs), middle schools and high schools.”

Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh, in an email to the Hopkinton Public Schools community, indicated the district will develop three separate plans. A Reentry Advisory Group — made up of teachers, administrators, parents, students, school nurses, public health personnel, union representation, elected officials and administrative assistants — has been established and will meet regularly throughout the summer.

“Naturally, planning for transportation, food service, building hygiene and more is very complicated, but we’ll get it done,” Cavanaugh wrote. “And, I can tell you, nothing would make me happier than getting Hopkinton’s students back to school. That said, the safety of our students and staff must remain the topmost priority, of course.”

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