All coronavirus-related protocols, including social distancing, will be lifted at schools for the start of the 2021-22 academic year, and every school will be required to be back fully in person, state education officials told superintendents on Thursday.
School districts will not be allowed to offer remote learning as a standard learning model, according to the new guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“Pathways that existed prior to the pandemic for offering virtual learning to individual students in limited cases will remain available to districts and schools,” including single-district virtual schools or home- or hospital-based tutoring programs for documented medical conditions, the state education agency said.
The upcoming changes to the safety protocols for schools come as Massachusetts prepares to drop its remaining COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday. All industries will be allowed to reopen without restrictions, and fully vaccinated people will no longer need to wear masks, except in certain situations.
Earlier this month, state education leaders updated the mask guidance for K-12 and child care settings, allowing children to stop wearing masks during outdoor activities, such as recess, begin sharing classroom objects again without disinfecting between uses.
In its guidance on Thursday, DESE noted that though coronavirus restrictions will drop this fall, schools are encouraged to “maintain ventilation upgrades from this past year as feasible, continue hand hygiene practices, and extend policies that encourage students and staff to continue to stay home when sick.”
The current health and safety guidelines will remain in place through the end of the school year.
Documented cases of coronavirus transmission in schools has been extremely limited , and reports of coronavirus cases among public school students and staff members have dropped in recent weeks as more people have been able to get vaccinated.
Just 229 new coronavirus cases among students and 21 among staff members were reported for the week that ended Wednesday; it was the lowest recorded single-week level of staff-member cases yet.
Read the full guidance from DESE:
Felicia Gans can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.