BOSTON — Governor Baker announced on Wednesday all schools and non-emergency childcare programs in the state would remain closed through the end of April amid the coronavirus crisis.
Schools had been set to re-open in April, but the new announcement will keep them closed until the first week of May at the earliest.
In a release, Baker said the decision, part of the new actions to support the ongoing COVID-19 response, will allow school administrators and educators to have more time to plan to ensure students can complete course requirements, as well as provide teachers with time to expand remote learning opportunities.
Along with extending the closures of schools and non-essential childcare programs, the governor also announced measures to help protect homeowners and low-income tenants from eviction and foreclosure. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) established a process to approve Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs to serve vulnerable children and families of first responders and essential workers.
The order does not apply to residential special education schools.
Students will continue their education through remote learning, which includes a wide variety of learning methods, including both analog and online.
Pharmacies and grocery stores will also have to comply with strict statewide regulations that enforce social distancing and crack down on sanitization efforts. The order will require grocery stores and pharmacies to reserve at least one hour everyday for shopping solely for adults over 60, offer sanitation options such as hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes for customers, provide appropriate social distancing measures, such as including a marked “Social Distancing Line” that will start six feet away from all checkout counters and close down any self-serve food stations.
Grocery stores and pharmacies are asked to also instruct any employees who are ill to stay home and should be able to accommodate employees who fall in the high-risk category with alternative assignments to limit exposure.
For more information, you can visit the state’s website for the latest information and guidance on COVID-19.
Parents say they are now a bit more stressed about the additional weeks of homeschooling, worried not only about a gap in learning for their kids but also the social isolation from friends at school.
“Seniors like my son, we don’t even know what’s going to happen, are they going to graduate on time, we assume now proms are done,” said Kim Allen, a Canton mother of eight. “Everything they should have had their senior year they’re not going to have.”
Allen highlighted the struggles of homeschooling along with trying to figure out online learning. Many parents are also working from home, so they don’t necessarily have the time to sit down and help their children with school work.
“I went through my 4th grader’s computer and missed like 5 assignments because we’re all still trying to navigate how everything is being sent, we’re not seeing things it’s hard,” said Allen. “I do have friends that are nurses, and plumbers, they’re all still working and they still have to figure out how to get the homeschooling in and still work.”
Keeping kids engaged and focus is another challenge in and of itself.
“We also understand how hard parents are working to keep their children engaged in the learning process,” said Governor Baker. “On behalf of all of us, I just want to say thank you because this matters.”
It’s also not just about the lessons themselves - many teachers say they miss their classrooms and interacting with their students.
“It’s kind of devastating because I’m really afraid it’s going to be [something like] we’re done until fall,” said Marianne Zimon, a teacher. “And as much as I need to see my students, my students need to come back and see us. There really wasn’t any closure or any end of year celebrations and enjoyment. They worked so hard all year long and to earn that.”
Without the routine and structure of the classroom, learning at home has been tough - and technical challenges can be frustrating and leave some kids out of the online classroom.
“Not everybody’s able to connect, we’ve had some technical problems,” said Brian LaPointe, a teacher. “So I’ve been reading, we’ve been chatting with the kids that are able to get on.”
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