Baker signs new order to expand mass school closure by end of April

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All Massachusetts schools and emergency centers will remain closed until the end of April, reopening “no earlier than May 4,” Mr. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday during a daily briefing on the reaction to the state of the coronavirus epidemic.

The new measure extends the earlier three-week closure of the school.

Baker said the state will help develop educational programs that students can use at home, including those with special needs and English language learners. Part of this programming will come through a new partnership, which Baker announced with the public media WGBH, which will offer daily educational television programs between noon and 5pm.

“We recognize that this is a traumatic time for our children. We want to get them settled and then we want to put them into a routine,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley, who also spoke at the press conference. Prolonged closure “also allows us to keep our children safe while building the extra planning time required for longer term closure,” he said.

The state’s leadership will be sent to school districts on Thursday. The goal is to “align” with appropriate distance learning efforts in the area, Riley said, and to help determine what the new student routine will look like.

Massachusetts Association of Teachers Association President Mary Najimi supports the move, she wrote in a statement.

“As always, the primary concern remains the well-being of students, teachers and our communities,” Najimi said. “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that the state has a significant and consistent impact in curbing the spread of the coronavirus and is working for the common good of everyone in Massachusetts.”

A letter will be sent to families regarding questions about access to resources and educational materials, especially among those households that do not have Internet access and other technology tools, Riley said. Teaching materials in some areas already include pencil and paper and hard copy packages.

“We think the districts should use what they have available to reach children. But we want to make sure we don’t penalize children who don’t have internet access,” Riley said.

The new need for social distance education represents a unique opportunity for “project-based learning” – such as reading, cooking recipes or creating a garden – that could shed new light on how students learn best, he said.

Reported by Kathleen McNerny from WBUR.