Updates from Sen. Lewis on School Reopening

As the Senate Chair of the Education Committee, I am receiving many questions, concerns and feedback about the state’s plan for re-opening public schools this fall. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, school committee members and others are understandably feeling anxious and uncertain about the best way forward.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has directed all school districts to prepare for three possible options for this fall: (1) all students and teachers back in-person in schools, (2) all students learning remotely, or (3) a hybrid model that combines some in-person learning with some remote learning or different models for different age students or special populations of students.

To assist school districts in preparing these plans, DESE has developed a number of guidance documents. These documents have been prepared by DESE staff in consultation with a stakeholder working group that has been meeting since May. The working group has included extensive input from public health experts and pediatricians.

I expect that DESE will continue to produce additional guidance and resources over the coming weeks. To read more about DESE protocols and guidance, and to stay up to date on new information, please visit COVID-19 Information and Resources – Student and Family Support (SFS).

DESE has requested that all school districts submit their initial plans for each of the three possible options to the Department by the end of this month. Final decisions will be made in August at the local level for each school district, and are expected to take into consideration a variety of local factors and conditions, including most importantly the spread of the virus in each community.

The Commonwealth has made various state and federal funding sources available to school districts and municipalities for COVID-related expenses, technology, etc. However, the state legislature has not yet been able to pass a full-year FY21 budget, including how much money will be provided to districts in Chapter 70 school funding or other education programs. This is due to ongoing uncertainty about the level of state tax receipts and whether additional federal dollars will be forthcoming for states, municipalities, and school districts. The funding available for schools will be a critical factor in determining if and how schools can safely re-open this fall.

Please contact my office at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov if you have further questions or want to discuss this in greater detail.