All Massachusetts schools and districts will be required to hold classes in-person next fall and health and safety requirements imposed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be lifted for the new school year, the department said in new guidance sent to superintendents Thursday evening.
The guidance says districts and schools must continue "core mitigation strategies" including indoor masking, physical distance and strong hand hygiene for the remainder of this school year. When the state lifts most COVID-19 restrictions this Saturday, students and staff will still need to wear masks inside.
"With the State of Emergency ending June 15, 2021, and as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to fall as vaccination rates increase, for the fall, all districts and schools will be required to be in-person, full-time, five days a week and all DESE health and safety requirements will be lifted," the guidance says. "This includes all physical distancing requirements."
Schools will not be able to offer remote learning "as a standard learning model" in the fall, per the guidance, but pre-pandemic virtual learning options for "individual students in limited cases" will remain available, including home or hospital tutoring because of a medical condition and single-district virtual schools.
Education officials plan to work with the Department of Public Health to issue health and safety recommendations over the summer, on topics like masks for elementary schoolers.
Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley has previously said he expected a full return to in-person schooling in the fall. On Tuesday, he said all elementary and middle schools are now in-person full time and 99 percent of high schools met his May 17 deadline for in-person learning.
During the week of May 20-26, districts reported 229 new cases of COVID-19 among students and 21 among staff to DESE.