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Massachusetts wants special needs students back in the classroom

BOSTON (AP) — The top education official in Massachusetts is urging public school districts in the state's three largest cities to bring high-needs students back to the classroom for in-person learning.

Jeffrey Riley, commissioner of elementary and secondary education, ordered the Boston, Worcester and Springfield school districts in letters released Friday to submit within 10 days their plans to bring students with disabilities and special needs back to school.

“For these particularly vulnerable groups of students, it is vital to have a plan for providing in-person instruction as soon as possible,” Riley wrote.

Riley did not specify when he would like classrooms to reopen.

Unsatisfactory responses could spark an audit “to assess overall efforts to provide in-person instruction and to ensure your remote learning program is consistent with state and federal laws and regulations," according to the letter.

Boston is providing in-person learning for fewer than 200 students at four schools, representing less than 1% of the more than 51,000 students in the system. Springfield and Worcester do not currently have any in-person instruction, according to the state.

Riley and Gov. Charlie Baker have urged districts to keep students in classrooms even if a community is designated high risk for coronavirus spread. Districts should switch to remote education if there is evidence of in-school spread of the virus, they have said.

Boston has assembled a task force to devise a plan for opening more classrooms to students with significant learning needs but has not released a timeline.

The Worcester School Committee said Thursday it stood by a decision made last month to extend remote education into January so school buildings can be made safer.

STATEHOUSE CLEANING

Some rooms in the Massachusetts Statehouse will undergo an environmental cleaning after a person connected to the state Senate tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an email sent to lawmakers and staffers.

No information about the positive case was provided, but everyone who came into contact with the person on Wednesday was notified, according to the email from Senate President Karen Spilka’s office, Masslive.com reported on Thursday.

“We would like to remind everyone that all Senate employees should be working remotely and Senate members are strongly encouraged to participate in sessions remotely,” the email said.

Some lawmakers were in the building Tuesday to vote on the final version of a police reform bill. Legislators have also been in the building to discuss the state budget.

The building underwent environmental cleaning last month after two state representatives tested positive for the virus. They had been in the building the same week the House and Senate were debating the budget.

VIRUS CASES

State health officials reported 37 additional deaths and more than 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

The state Department of Public Health also said there are more than 50,000 active cases of the virus, including nearly 1,400 in state hospitals.

Nearly 10,700 people have died and nearly 240,000 people have been infected by the virus in the state since the pandemic started.

Massachusetts' seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate has risen over the past two weeks, from 3.2% on Nov. 19 to 4.8% on Dec. 3.

The state's seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 2,623 a day on Nov. 19 to 3,759 on Dec. 3.

 

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