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Massachusetts DESE sets timeline for students to return to full-time in-person learning in Massachusetts



Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley issued a memo today showing the timeline for when Massachusetts students must return to full-time, in-person learning.

The plan will begin with a return to in-person school for elementary schools grades K-5. As of April 5, 2021, the Department will require elementary schools to use a full-time, in-person learning model for instructional hours to count towards structured learning time.

“With recent significant improvements in COVID-19 health metrics, rigorous implementation of key mitigation strategies, and weekly pooled testing up and running for students and school staff across the Commonwealth, more districts and schools have already started to bring more students back, especially at the elementary level.”

Families will retain the choice as to whether to send their children to school in-person or have them learn remotely through the end of the school year. Districts may also apply for a waiver from DESE. Waivers will be considered in a limited set of circumstances.

Middle school phase (grades 6-8): Districts and schools will be required to shift their learning model for middle school grade levels to full-time, in-person instruction five days per week, effective Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Districts may choose to ask students who have traveled to a state on the restricted list to learn remotely for the week of April 26, 2021 (the week after April vacation).

High school phase (grades 9-12): We will announce the details and timing of the high school phase of the plan in April. Districts will be provided with at least two weeks advance notice of the specific date requirement for high school students but should start making such plans now.

According to the memo, students can still learn remotely and have their hours count towards SLT in two “exception cases.” Parents/guardians may choose to have their students learn remotely through the end of this school year, and the learning hours for these students will continue to count towards structured learning time.

Second, following DESE COVID-19 health protocols, 32 individual students may need to isolate or quarantine and therefore learn remotely if they are symptomatic, diagnosed with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone who tests positive. In these cases, where the district is following the DESE COVID-19 health protocols and students are learning remotely due to a COVID-19-related issue, learning hours will also continue to count towards structured learning time.

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