Schools across the state remain closed until May 4 due to the COVID-19 pandemic as districts struggle to maintain a semblance of normalcy through online learning.
The state cannot impose rules and regulations for how the districts should be proceeding with their online programs, but the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has provided guidance for remote learning. State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley told Emily Rooney on WGBH News' Greater Boston that the guidance prioritizes the safety of the children, helping vulnerable students with special needs and ensuring teachers maintain contact with the students.
“While we can’t mandate individual districts do things, we offered specific guidance for districts about how we thought this should operate,” he said.
The department consulted with the Massachusetts PTA, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts School Committee Association, the Charter School Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the Superintendents association.
“We took a group of people and said what do we think is best for our state and that is how we developed the guidance,” Riley said.
Even with this guidance and the efforts of local districts, there is still a concern that students struggle will be left behind. Riley suggested that the state could be receiving over $200 million from the federal stimulus, which he said could “even that playing field,” by helping districts pay for summer learning or more resources next year to help close any learning gaps created during this period.
School closings have also forced the MCAS test to be postponed. The state has already received a federal waiver to cancel this years test, and the DESE is now waiting on the state legislature to decide what authority the department has to cancel the MCAS.
“We do think there will be more clarity in the coming days about MCAS and what that will look like,” Riley said.