DESE auditing two Mass. school districts still using fully remote-learning despite low COVID-19 rates

WATERTOWN, Mass. — Two Massachusetts school districts are being audited by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education because students remain in remote learning models despite both cities having low COVID-19 infection rates.

East Longmeadow and Watertown are in hot water for not sending kids back to the classroom.

Boston 25 spoke to parents about the state’s move to see why students are still learning from home.

Some Watertown parents say that having schools still in the remote learning phase has not been easy for them.

“Yes, I have three kids and they’re all home," said Maura Lyons.

Lyons laughed but says it’s been an adjustment for everyone in the house.

“My oldest is in 4th grade so she’s adapting and doing well but it’s still not ideal," said Lyons.

Watertown Schools never intended to start hybrid learning until October 26th, according to the plan the city submitted to the state.

But with the advent of a weekly COVID-19 map updating coronavirus cases across the Commonwealth, the state expected adjustments. Watertown is now is in a yellow, or moderate zone, and the state wants to know why students are still learning remotely.

A letter sent to the Chair of the Watertown School Committee says in part:

“[...] We clearly stated the expectation that districts use this data to inform their learning models throughout the school year."

—  Jeffrey C. Riley Commissioner, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Boston 25 reached out to the Watertown superintendent for a comment by phone and email but have not heard back yet.

Some parents, however, do think remote learning is working.

“So far it’s been working pretty well we’ve been pretty happy with the way the remote learning has been going," said Christina Paquette.

Others like Hernan Totino prefer some in person learning.

“Yes, if we are not in the red zone I think they should go back to school," said Totino.

The school committee met on Monday night and while hybrid learning was on the agenda, parents still feel they don’t have an answers and are glad the state is looking to find some.

“It’s very inconvenient and kind of don’t know much details about when they’re going to go back and the plan to go forward," said Lyons.

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