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Massachusetts empowers schools commissioner to force school reopening

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The Massachusetts school board voted Friday to allow its schools commissioner to force a wide return to in-person learning — despite union objections, according to reports.

State Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Riley told the board that he would seek those powers in order to fully reopen elementary schools in April and resume full across all grade levels in-person learning in the fall.

“We think now is the time to begin to move our children back into school more robustly,” Riley said.

He has pointed to improved coronavirus numbers across the state and stressed the deepening emotional damage wrought by extended absence from school.

Roughly 80 percent of Massachusetts students currently have some in-person learning available to them with about 300,000 enrolled in fully remote districts.

Parents who want to keep their kids home for the rest of the year will retain that option.

Some teachers union factions have pushed back against a fuller return to their school buildings, arguing that the coronavirus has yet to be fully subdued.

But officials in the state and elsewhere have intensified their calls for a return to classrooms, stressing the emotional needs of students left shellshocked by the pandemic.

Others have argued that remote learning is widening academic gaps and having an especially severe impact on lower-income kids.

New York schools are slowly resuming in-person classes — but 70 percent of kids the nation’s largest school district remain in the fully remote format.

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