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COVID Springfield,Worcester Get 10 Days To Defend Special-Needs Education

Student at school during COVID-19, photo illustration
Student at school during COVID-19, photo illustration Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/TheBellaTwins1445, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>

School officials in Worcester, Springfield, and Boston have just 10 days to defend distance-learning plans for special-needs students - or else state officials are going to step in.

Concern that special needs students and those with disabilities are not learning what they need to through the more independent at-home learning style has led Massachusetts education administrators to evaluate what’s happening in the state’s biggest cities.

There are no special-needs students receiving in-school education in Worcester or Springfield, and less than 200 in Boston, according to the Boston Globe.

Between Monday, Nov. 24 and Monday, Nov. 30, school leaders in Worcester, Springfield, and Boston received letters from Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey Riley putting them on notice that their plans for educating special-needs students during the pandemic may be inadequate.

Educators at the state and local levels have spoken about the importance of returning special-needs students to in-school education as soon as possible to allow them access to the extra guidance or aids the students need to be successful. In recognition of this, special-needs students were the first students to return to classes in September on many campuses across the state.

The letter set a 10-day deadline for the cities to explain their methods. Depending on how strict Riley is being about counting the Thanksgiving holiday, the deadline could be up anywhere between Friday, Dec. 4, and Thursday, Dec. 10.

“I know we share a goal of providing access to a high-quality education for all students,” Riley said in the letter. “I look forward to working together to ensure students with disabilities benefit from safe, in-person instruction this school year.”

State officials said that city leaders must provide good reasons for the set-up or face a state audit. That state audit could still be performed if the local response is not deemed adequate by Massachusetts officials.

In Worcester, the School Committee recently approved a plan for returning to in-person instruction starting in January 2021.

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