Gov. Baker talks about in-person learning at Salem K-8 school

SALEM, Mass. — Governor Charlie Baker spoke at Salem’s Saltonstall School Monday morning about testing efforts in The Witch City and statewide.

He was joined by Mayor Kim Driscoll and Superintendent of Schools Stephen Zrike, both of whom thanked the state for resources.

Zrike said Salem schools received testing kits in time for every staff member to be COVID tested before the school day started. During her brief remarks, Driscoll acknowledged the trepidation some families feel as children return amid the Omicron variant surge.

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Baker praised the state’s testing programs allowing teachers and students to receive tests which he says is critical to keeping kids in school and responded to criticism over whether schools should have been open Monday, following the winter break.

“There were all kinds of talk last week about how the school wouldn’t open in Massachusetts today; schools did. Pretty much across the commonwealth. There are a very small number of districts that aren’t in school,” Baker said.

Last Friday, the Massachusetts Teachers Association urged the state to shut down public schools for Monday after the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced rapid COVID at-home tests purchased for teachers would not arrive in time for their distribution. At the time, DESE said it had a backup plan. The kits were for educators to use before returning to classes, a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as winter break was set to end. DESE secured and began distributing 227,000 rapid antigen tests from another supplier, according to a spokesperson.

Baker also spoke about billions of dollars in unused federal funds that school districts have to use. In a statement to Boston 25 News about that comment, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Executive Director Thomas Scott said the following:

“The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can confirm that it will begin distributing more than 227,000 rapid antigen tests to school districts on Saturday and Sunday. Based on supply chain availability, DESE’s original test order was delayed, and the department worked quickly to find an alternative supply.

The department and the Baker-Polito Administration are extremely appreciative of the testing manufacturer iHealth who stepped in to supply tests after the original order was delayed and FedEx who helped facilitate the shipment, as well as teachers and superintendents for their flexibility and continued collaboration.”

—  Colleen Quinn, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Education

Monday, the governor’s remarks will air live on Boston 25 News at 7:30 a.m.

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