School districts across Massachusetts will be allowed to delay the opening day for students this fall up to 10 days — and students won’t have to make up the lost time — under a deal finalized Monday that aims to give districts more time to prepare for a safe return.
Under the deal — struck between state education officials and the state’s three largest teacher unions — districts can use the first 10 days of the school year to provide teachers and staff with time to redesign classroom lessons, learn techniques to help students overcome trauma they may have experienced during the pandemic, and to learn an array of new safety and health protocols developed to keep students safe from the coronavirus.
“It’s going to be a new world for everyone,” said Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts. “I just don’t see everything getting done in time.”
The deal sets Sept. 16 as the latest students should return to classes. That means districts that were planning to resume classes before Labor Day, which lands on Sept. 7 this year, will benefit the most under the agreement, which loosens a state rule requiring 180 days of classes, while districts that were slated to reopen after the holiday, like Boston, would lose fewer instructional days. However, districts can seek state approval to begin classes after the 16th.
The deal was signed by the AFT, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and the Boston Teachers Union.
One of the big ideas behind the delay is to be more thoughtful about reinventing education this fall rather than the scramble that occurred in March after Governor Charlie Baker abruptly closed schools statewide as part of a concerted effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
“We had 24 hours from the time the governor closed schools to begin what I called crisis learning,” said Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. “We now have 10 days to redesign COVID learning to connect educators and students with one another. It’s exciting.”