BOSTON (WGGB/WSHM) -- State education officials have released their initial reopening guidance for schools.
In a memorandum to the state's school superintendents, Mass. Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said that their goal for the fall is to have a "safe return of as many students as possible to in-person school settings."
"If the current positive public health metrics hold, we believe that by following critical health requirements, we can safely return to in-person school," Riley explained.
At the same time, Riley noted that districts are required to prepare for a fall reopening with three possible learning models:
- In-person learning with new safety requirements
- Hybrid of in-person and remote learning
- Continuation of remote learning
“This plan will allow schools to responsibly do what's best for students, which is bring them back to school to learn and grow,” Gov. Baker said at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
The state outlined the following health and safety practices that would enable a safe reopening for in-person learning this fall. However, Riley noted that these requirements will be updated as needed into the summer and fall.
"There's almost a billion dollars in state and federal funding that's available to make sure that our districts have the resources that they need to implement this plan," Baker explained.
- Students in Grade 2 and above will be required to wear a mask or face covering that covers the nose and mouth
- Students in Kindergarten and Grade 1 should be encouraged to wear a face covering/mask
- Face shields may be an option for those students with behavioral, medical, or other challenges who can't wear a face mask or covering
- Adults - both teachers and staff - are required to wear face masks or coverings
- Mask breaks should occur during the day, when students can be six feet apart and ideally outside or at least the windows open
- Exceptions to the face mask or covering requirements must be made for those who can't wear one due to medical conditions, disability, or other health and safety factors
- Masks and face coverings should be provided by the student or family. However, extra disposable face masks should be made available by the school if needed.
- Masks and face coverings are required by anyone on a school bus
- Schools should aim for a physical distance of six feet when possible, but three feet at minimum is allowed
- Desks should be spaced six feet apart, but not fewer than three feet apart
- Desks should face the same direction
- School spaces including cafeterias, libraries, and auditoriums should be repurposed to increase the amount of space available to accommodate maximum distance
- Additional precautions - such as eye protection, a face mask or covering, gloves, and disposable gown - are needed for those helping students with disabilities in close proximity, when distance isn't possible
- Screening procedures are not required at the school entrances, but staff and bus drivers should monitor students throughout the day and refer students who might be symptomatic to the school's healthcare point of contact
- Temperature checks are not recommended
- Students and staff are required to exercise hand hygiene, either by hand washing or sanitizer, when they get to school, before eating, before putting on or removing masks, and before dismissal
COVID-19 ISOLATION SPACE
- Schools will be required to identify a COVID-19 related isolation space that is separate from the nurse's office or another space where medical care is provided. A student showing symptoms should be moved to this room until he or she can be picked up.
- There is no required maximum on cohort or group sizes, so long as schools adhere to distancing requirements
- Elementary schools should aim to keep students in the same group throughout the day
- Middle and high schools are encouraged to minimize mixing students groups to the extent possible
- Schools should prepare to hold breakfast and lunch in classrooms, instead of the cafeteria or other common areas
- Because masks won't be worn during meals, schools should consider ways to hold breakfast and lunch in a way to maintain distancing (i.e. build in other breaks, stagger schedules, etc)
- If food is served in the cafeteria, stagger schedules to minimize mixing cohorts and enforce distancing
- Food preparation and service needs to be adjusted to minimize shared items (i.e. serving utensils), maintain distance, and support compliance with health and safety
- For remote learning students, school meals should be provided as needed for those days when they are not in the school
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Western Mass News will continue to follow this story and will have more information as it becomes available.