SALEM, Mass. (WWLP) – Governor Charlie Baker visited a school in Salem where students are learning in-person and also provided an update on state’s response efforts on the coronavirus pandemic Thursday morning.
Governor Baker joined Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Secretary of Education James Peyser, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll to visit and tour Bentley Academy Innovation School, where students are learning in-person.
The students are required to wear masks and desks are being spaced 6 feet apart, but what the governor is hoping to see other districts adopt is the teaching styles that he witnessed during the tour.
The Salem school district has been offering in person learning for months now, and a majority of students in the community are opting to go into the classroom. During his visit, the governor noted that one of the teachers was instructing students both online and in the classroom, referring to them as roomers and zoomers.
Baker said, “The creativity and the imagination that she was bringing to it spoke to something that I think is critical to all of the work that’s being done here in Salem and in other places.”
Officials toured the school at around 10:30 a.m. inside Bentley Academy. To help schools bring students back safely, the state is offering ‘pool testing’ in 120 districts. However, the testing plan has received pushback from teachers unions across the state.
Union members don’t believe the testing plan is a sufficient way to prevent a deadly outbreak, and they’re asking that teachers be moved up in the vaccine distribution process.
Massachusetts schools will begin a new weekly pool testing program to screen students and staff for COVID-19, according to Governor Baker on Friday.
Schools that are doing in-person or hybrid learning will be prioritized to get the pool testing kits, but they will be available to school systems that are doing remote-learning but are looking to get students back into the classroom.