Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker went back to school Thursday, walking the halls, attending algebra class and even touring the school cafeteria inside Carlisle Public School.
Carlisle is one of the few public schools in the state currently providing fully in-person instruction.
“They did some really interesting work with their existing furniture, which looked more like a swap than anything else, in terms of how they thought about distance in the cafeteria,” Baker said.
He hopes to use the 600-student K-8 school as a template for other districts to bring more children back into the classroom.
“It’s pretty obvious you’re using every single square inch of space that’s available in those classrooms to create the kind of distance you want to create for the kids,” Baker said.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said, “It just reminds us again how important it is for kids to be in school.”
But Superintendent James O’Shea admits it was not without significant challenges – both logistically and financially – which is something larger or less affluent districts may have a harder time managing.
“I think I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that yes, we are somewhat privileged here in Carlisle and we were well-positioned to make this transition," O’Shea said. "But all that being considered, it has been an incredible amount of work on the part of everyone.”
Baker said that each district needs to continue to make learning model decisions based on its own specific situation, but he wants to challenge districts to learn from schools he believes are having success with in-person learning.
“You need people who are willing to try, and it’s very clear that here people are willing to try,” he said.
O'Shea stressed that it takes the entire community working together to make full in-person learning work.