February 23, 2021
Some takeaways from the press conference with Governor Baker, Commissioner Riley and James Peyser (Secretary of Education for Massachusetts).
Who are these people and who is “the Board”?
Commissioner Riley is the State of Massachusetts Education Commissioner for Elementary and Secondary Education. He made a proposal to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) ("the Board"). Among BESE’s responsibilities is to hire the Commissioner and to approve learning standards for schools across the State. The Secretary of Education sits on DESE. Riley proposed to make regulatory revisions for time on learning to require students to be back in school full time, 5 days a week. The Board (BESE) will vote to accept or reject those revisions.
Some takeaways from the press conference:
Three feet is the recommendation for social distancing in the classroom (or more if schools are able)
Riley says this is backed with data from all over the world
Riley says that data shows “almost no difference” between 3 ft and 6 ft
There is no requirement that teachers be vaccinated before going back to school as Baker and Riley see vaccination as one of many mitigation strategies (including pool testing, masks, etc.) and not the only mitigation strategy
Baker said there is lots of data from all over the country from old schools, new schools, and that they are just not seeing spreading happening in schools
Parents can still opt to keep their children fully remote until the end of the school year
Riley says it makes sense to start with Elementary schools since they are easier to cohort and the data supports it and the move to middle schools and potentially high schools by the end of the year
Next step is that the Board needs to vote
The board is meeting tonight and this is on the agenda to discuss, unclear (to me) when they will vote
What does this mean for Natick?
If the Board votes to approve this revision then Natick will have to comply.
Riley said they will provide some waivers in the situation of a district who is fully remote and needs to take a little longer to first go hybrid before going fully in person.