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Massachusetts school year shortened to prepare for COVID-19



Katie Lannan
State House News Service

School districts will have an extra 10-day period at the start of the school year to plan their pandemic-era operations, under what the head of the Massachusetts Teachers Association said was an agreement between unions and state education officials.

“COVID learning is crisis learning, and it’s going to be with us for a full year,” MTA President Merrie Najimy told the News Service. “We don’t need to just plan for what September and October look like. We need to redesign an entire year of teaching under a pandemic.” Najimy on Tuesday afternoon said the two sides reached an agreement and were “in the middle of finalizing the paperwork” on a plan to have a 10-day period before classes start to give educators time to “work with each other to prepare for a new year.”

Najimy wrote on the MTA’s website that a memorandum of understanding the unions and DESE plan to sign will reduce the 180-day student learning time requirement to 170 days, “so long as districts begin providing instruction to students no later than September 16, 2020.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said around 4:40 p.m. that no deal had yet been signed.

Najimy said the planning period will give teachers the time to reflect on the spring’s sudden transition to remote learning, revise and adapt. She said students will be coming back to school “with needs that we don’t fully understand yet.”

After Gov. Charlie Baker and Education Commissioner Jeff Riley released the administration’s school reopening strategy, the MTA, American Federation of Teachers of Massachusetts and Boston Teachers Union put forward their own proposal calling for a phased reopening. Najimy said the unions and Riley had been in talks throughout July.

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