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Lawrence students to start using classrooms

'High needs' children 1st to enter buildings this school year

via Allison Corneau, Eagle Tribune

So far this school year, no Lawrence public school students have stepped foot into a classroom. Fears of COVID-19 have kept them learning remotely from home.


Classroom doors will, however, open soon to a limited group of students. It's the first move toward what officials hope eventually becomes a return to school by children across the city.


Superintendent Cynthia Paris said a small group of "high needs" students will return to classrooms on an invite-only basis starting Jan. 19. Paris said those being invited include students in special education programs and English language learners. School officials are in the process of contacting the students who are eligible to return, she said.


"This is a small but crucial resumption of some essential in-person services and instruction that cannot be sufficiently delivered remotely," Paris said.


As of late last week, more than 13,500 Lawrence residents had tested positive for COVID-19, the mayor's office said. Since the state Department of Public Health began releasing color-coded risk designations several months ago, the city has consistently ranked in the red, high-risk category. As a result, Paris and school officials have kept all students learning remotely from home since the school year began. Teachers are allowed to instruct students from school buildings if they choose.


When students begin returning to classrooms, face shields and gloves will be provided to supplement the existing mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing protocols, Paris said. The school system also plans to offer what Paris called "rapid antigen testing" for all symptomatic students and staff members who return to schools.


"We recognize that the city continues to be challenged by high rates of COVID-19, and know all too well that changes to these (return-to-classroom) plans could be necessary in the coming weeks,'' Paris said. "But ... we are confident in our planning, and excited to take this first step of an in-person return.''


Paris said that depending on how the return to classrooms goes this month, additional high needs students are scheduled to head back to schools on Feb. 1 and March 1.



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