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School this fall will look ‘a lot more like it did before the pandemic,’ Baker says

The University Park Campus School in Worcester, photographed in March.
The University Park Campus School in Worcester, photographed in March.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

With coronavirus cases on a steady decline, Governor Charlie Baker said Friday that people can expect schools to be “business as usual” this fall, unless the pandemic worsens again in Massachusetts.

“We should expect that when kids go back in the fall, they’re going to be going back to a school that looks and feels a lot like the one they went to before COVID,” Baker told reporters following a roundtable at Worcester State University about the state’s early college program.

The state’s K-12 education agency decided in late May to drop all coronavirus-related protocols, including social distancing, for schools this fall. All schools are required to reopen full time in person without a remote learning option.

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Education leaders have said they’ll work with the Department of Public Health to determine if there is a need for mask-wearing, particularly for young students who aren’t currently eligible for vaccines. But there aren’t any current plans to require masks, according to the latest guidance from the state.

Baker said Friday he doesn’t feel children need to be wearing masks at summer school either.

“It’s overwhelmingly clear that COVID in schools going forward just really isn’t going to be — it should not be — an issue,” he said. “It’s always possible something could happen. If it does, we’ll make adjustments, but I think our message to people at this point is school [this fall] should look a lot more like it did before the pandemic.”

Baker on Friday touted the early college program, which allows students to take college courses and earn credits while working toward their high school diploma. It provided 25,000 free college credits to public school students this past academic year.

Five new early college programs were approved this week to launch in September, Baker said: Gardner Academy for Learning and Technology in partnership with Mt. Wachusett Community College, High School of Commerce in Springfield in partnership with Springfield Technical Community College, North Quincy High in partnership with Quincy College, Quincy High School in partnership with Quincy College, and Waltham High School in partnership with Framingham State and Massachusetts Bay Community College.

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He also heard from several students in Worcester who said they have valued the opportunity to explore college campuses and learn about potential career fields before ever leaving high school.

“This is a program that can really change people’s lives,” he said. “And most of the lives it’s changed so far have been kids coming out of gateway cities, first-generation college students. And there’s so much possibility and hope and opportunity associated with it.”


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.