Schools in Massachusetts will remain closed for the rest of the school year, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday as coronavirus cases continued to surge in the state.
“All public and private schools will remain closed through the end of the school year. Remote learning will continue in all districts. This does not apply to residential special education schools,” Baker said. The governor said students cannot safely return to school and risk spreading COVID-19 to others.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will launch a remote learning initiative to provide tools for teachers and students.
Baker recognized that closing schools will put added stress on seniors, who were looking forward to their final sports seasons, proms and graduation.
“To all the seniors, we would just say: ‘You should keep your heads up. The end of the year may not proceed as planned, but there will be, because there always are, brighter days ahead. We will get through this pandemic together,’” Baker said.
The order that closed all non-emergency child care programs was extended to June 29. Emergency childcare programs may keep operating as they have been, Baker said.
Right now, there are 523 emergency child care programs statewide serving families of essential workers.
The state’s stay-at-home advisory and mandatory closure of nonessential businesses remains in effect through May 4.
“The data shows we are still very much in the grips of a pandemic here in Massachusetts,” Baker said. “We are working hard to think about a strategy in the days ahead.”
The announcement came one day after the Massachusetts Teachers Association urged Baker to keep schools closed.
“Understanding that Massachusetts remains a COVID-19 hotspot, it seems unlikely that definitive assurances will be possible to allow for a reopening before the end of this school year,” the group said in a statement.
Deaths from COVID-19 are expected to surpass 2,000 this week in Massachusetts.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 39,643 Monday after 1,566 new cases were reported by state health officials.
Vice President Mike Pence said the White House is closely watching the Boston area, and the coordinator of the federal coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, said officials are “very much focused” on Massachusetts.
Thirty-four other states, 3 U.S. territories and the District of Columbia have ordered or recommended school closures for the rest of the academic year, according to Education Week.