Governor Charlie Baker unveiled his much-anticipated plan to reopen Massachusetts Monday, and began to provide answers to one of the key questions for parents and students: “What about schools, colleges, and camps?”
The details provided by the administration offered some broad strokes on what to expect, but also stopped short of answering many questions about what the near-term future of education looks like in Massachusetts.
Here’s what the plan says about each of these sectors.
- In the middle of the spring semester, colleges and universities closed their physical locations and moved to remote learning as the pandemic began sweeping the state. During his press conference Monday, Baker was asked if campuses could expect to physically welcome students back to campus in the fall. His answer revealed that officials were still formulating a plan on how to approach the fall semester.
“The conversation about the fall — the discussion there is ongoing,” Baker said. “I would expect that to get resolved at some point over the course of the next four or five weeks, but that hasn’t been answered yet.”
- The reopening plan says that colleges and universities are working together and with the state to “ensure a safe and gradual return to campus life,” and said that in the upcoming weeks, institutions will develop their own customized reopening plans for each of the state’s phases.
- During phase one, which stretches from now through June 8 at the earliest, colleges can begin restarting some in-person functions. Institutions can repopulate research laboratories and medical, dental, veterinary, and allied health clinical education and services, and perform work necessary to prepare campuses to reopen. (All activities must observe social distancing guidance.)
- During phases two and three, each institution will develop its own plans for course delivery, which will likely involve a combination of in-person and remote learning to allow for social distancing on campus.
- As previously announced, schools will stay physically closed through the end of the academic year, with remote lessons taking place. However, there is the potential for limited exceptions to be announced at a later date, according to the reopening plan, although specifics were not noted in Monday’s plan.
- Schools can continue offering essential noneducational services, such as take-out and food delivery to students and families.
- When it comes to the key piece almost everyone is waiting for — what learning will look like in the fall — the information provided is a bit of a letdown. The reopening document says plans for the 2020-21 school year are still in progress and will be announced soon. “We are developing plans for summer learning programs and the next school year and closely tracing the progression of the virus as part of the reopening process,” the plan says. The administration did not provide a timetable for when that future guidance would be coming.
Child care/day care and summer camps
- Child care — which was ordered by Baker to remain closed until the end of June — and summer recreation camps will reopen in a phased approach. The state education and public health departments are still developing exact guidelines, which aim to balance families’ needs with heath and safety.
- The initial reopening plan will “focus on families who have no safe alternative to group care by increasing emergency child care capacity.” No further specifics were provided.
- In the state’s phase two, which at the very earliest would be June 8, recreational day camps would be able to open.
- In phase three, which would be June 29 at the earliest, residential summer camps would be able to open.
- Unfortunately, that’s about all that’s been released so far. The state is expected to release more detailed guidelines on child care in the coming weeks.