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What you need to know about the state guidelines for reopening schools

Governoe Charlie Baker spoke at a press conference at the State House on Thursday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker is expected to release guidelines Thursday for reopening Massachusetts schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Globe got a sneak peek at the guidelines Wednesday.

Here are five key takeaways.

1] The great unknown — One major question left unanswered in the guidelines is precisely when schools will reopen. State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley says in a letter accompanying the guidelines that school leaders should prepare for three possible scenarios this fall: a full-scale return to school, a mix of in-person and remote learning, or just remote learning.

2] Masks — Students in Grade 2 and above, and all adults, will have to wear masks. While families will have to provide masks to students, the guidelines encourage schools to keep disposable masks on hand for kids who show up without them. And school nurses must wear extra protection, such as face shields and goggles, when directly treating students.

3] Distancing — The guidelines call for desks to be spaced 6 feet apart whenever possible but no less than 3 feet apart. Cafeterias, gyms, libraries, and other large spaces should be set up to promote the greatest amount of social distancing possible.


4] Class sizes — There will be no uniform cap on the number of students in a classroom, presumably because square footage of rooms can vary. Instead, schools should determine class sizes based on how many students can be taught with social distancing in place.

5] Family communication — Districts should consider surveying families repeatedly throughout the summer and possibly into the school year. The surveys will help officials determine such things as which children will return to school, and who needs Internet and technology access or bus transportation. Guidelines for busing will be released at a later date.

Meghan E. Irons and James Vaznis of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at