SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- With the new school year beginning for students and teachers, a large majority starting next week around western Mass., all eyes will be on the coronavirus case numbers.

If cases go up, school districts will have to respond appropriately.

Western Mass News spoke with a member of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (DESE) COVID-19 Task Force about how students may have to adjust from hybrid or in-person to fully remote learning.

These decisions are all based on the COVID-19 risk map. If a town or city in Massachusetts is considered high risk, the state advises that the school district be fully remote.

Many students in Massachusetts are grabbing their backpacks and getting ready for a new type of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In many western Mass. communities, the school districts plan on following a hybrid model, where two days a week, students are physically in the classroom, and the other days they will be remote.

In a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Governor Charlie Baker said the state is keeping a close eye on what happens as schools open.

Trying to get through this school reopening and the college return, these are important deals here in Massachusetts. They're hugely important for kids and families and educators.

Western Mass News spoke with a member of the DESE's COVID-19 Task Force, Robert Bardwell, who said a lot of thought was planned for the upcoming school year to keep everyone safe.

"The more cases there are in the community, the more there are concerns that it could be in the schools, based on your students and your staff," Bardwell explained.

DESE recommends that if a town or city turns red on the COVID-19 risk map, that school district should be remote. The list of school districts in western Mass. that are using a hybrid model includes Amherst, Granby, and Southampton.

Bardwell, the executive director of the Massachusetts School Counselors Association, said most students will have to learn to adjust if their hybrid model district goes fully remote.

"This is a long term impact in the fact that they are not in the traditional school," he said. "It might also make them more flexible or capable of dealing with the challenges that life throws at you. So they have had to figure out 'What do I do when my technology crashes?' or 'What do I do when school is called off?'"

Bardwell also said it's important for parents to be flexible because, during the pandemic, things can change rather quickly.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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