SPECIAL COVERAGE ON THE CORONAVIRUS
Metropolitan Mayors Coalition Chair Advocates For Longer Closure. Should Hingham Schools Extend Them?
By Greg Lane, Hingham Current Staff, April 8, 2020
Updated April 8, 2020 at 2:00 PM
Officials discussed extending school closures to the end of the academic year recently as part of a virtual conference to update Massachusetts towns and cities on the pandemic.
According to the Boston Globe, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said, “It was very clear that this is the most prudent and ... logical step to ensure that we don’t spike a new wave of transmission.”
Curtatone leads the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, which The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) helped establish in 2001. The Metro Mayors Coalition, which is comprised of mayors and managers from Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Melrose, Medford, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop, pressed the governor last month to issue his stay-at-home advisory, including school closures.
On Monday Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the ‘White House Coronavirus Task Force’ said she and others are starting to see the positive impact of the social distancing measures being enacted nationwide. "But we have to do even more right now because that will predict where we are two or three weeks from now,” she said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations on school closure states, “Available modeling data indicate that early, short to medium closures do not impact the epicurve of COVID-19 or available health care measures (e.g., hospitalizations). There may be some impact of much longer closures (8 weeks, 20 weeks) further into community spread."
So far, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has only committed to keep schools closed until May 4. Yesterday, Maine’s commissioner of education recommended that schools across the state plan to continue to replace in-person classroom and group instruction with remote and distance learning programs for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. The unrelenting COVID-19 crisis has also prompted 17 governors in other states to cancel school until further notice or for the rest of the academic year, according to Education Week.
Keeping schools closed in Hingham would be a difficult decision. Closing schools would have a continued ripple effect on parents who are now trying to grapple with how to structure a day of learning for their children at home while also juggling jobs and other responsibilities.
Ultimately, the decision is up to individual cities and towns — not the state.
"We are working together as a town to continue to try to keep the people who work and live in Hingham safe," said Selectwoman Karen Johnson. "This is an evolving situation that we will continue to monitor."
School Committee candidate Stephanie Gertz said she would love to make plans past May 4th but thinks we need to wait to make a decision. “For school systems that end in May, it may make sense to end the year,” she said. “However, we have almost 2 months of school after May 4th, so I think we should wait at least until mid-April to decide.”
Board of Selectmen candidate Bill Ramsey said it’s still a little premature to make a decision on canceling school for the
Coronavirus and School Closures (2020, March 6). Education Week.
remainder of the year. “The next thirty days will tell us a lot about the state of the virus and whether social distancing measures have helped to mitigate its impact,” he said. “At that point, I imagine school officials will consult with state and local medical experts to determine the safest course of action.”
Hingham Assistant Town Administrator Michelle Monsegur referred requests for comment to the school department.
“The Hingham school district’s Leadership Team, in collaboration with educators across the district, have developed the Hingham Public Schools’ Remote Learning Plan and the complementary Manual for the Provision of Virtual Special Education Services,” said School Superintendent Dr. Paul Austin in a community message on Friday.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently set guidelines around remote learning, which offer meaningful and productive learning opportunities to all of their students.