Changes arrive on first day for many Mass. schools

Ipswich students return to school greeted by cheering teachers and outdoor classrooms

IPSWICH, Mass. — After halting in-person learning short in March due to the surging COVID-19 pandemic, many Massachusetts schools start a very different looking academic year Monday.

While some school districts return to fully in-person learning, the vast majority of public school systems will begin with a fully remote or hybrid model.

The Commonwealth’s color-coded risk assessment map currently puts 13 towns and cities in the red, or high-risk category, in which fully remote learning is recommended.

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In Ipswich where they’re starting the year in the hybrid model, high school staff members held an outdoor “Welcome Back!” celebration at 7:30 a.m. Monday. Outdoor classrooms were set up under large tents on the campus’s green spaces.

Ipswich High School principal Jonathan Mitchell said, “Obviously the academics are important, but we knew that we wanted to make sure the students feel welcome because they’re going to feel anxious too and we wanted to start the year off on a good foot.”

Without a waiver, Massachusetts education leaders are requiring districts to begin the new year no later than Sept. 16.

Over the summer, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education signed an agreement with the largest teachers unions in Massachusetts that lowered the minimum number of school days in the 2020-21 school year to 170, which allowed districts to use up to 10 school days for staff training.

Changes arrive on first day for many Mass. schools