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The playground at Williamstown Elementary School, like the school itself, remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baker Pushes Back on Federal Pressure to Open Schools

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com
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BOSTON -- Gov. Charlie Baker Wednesday said he does not think it “makes sense” for a one-size-fits-all approach to reopening the nation’s public schools but stopped short of directly criticizing a presidential tweet pressuring states to open the schoolhouse doors in the middle of a global pandemic.
 
Baker was asked in his daily press availability about President Trump’s Tuesday Twitter statement that indicated his administration “May cut off funding if [schools] not open!”
 
The Republican governor, not for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, found himself having to argue against his party’s leader while trying to not get into a feud with the leader of the free world.
 
The first question from the press at Wednesday’s briefing was about Trump’s Tuesday statements.
 
“I don’t think a one-size-fits-all policy on any of these issues makes a lot of sense,” Baker said. “What we’ve done here in Massachusetts is work closely with our colleagues in the health care community, the pediatric community and the education community to put together a program that’s based on this idea that we’d like to see kids returning to school.
 
“But, as part of that, [the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] is expecting schools to develop programs that would work on either a hybrid basis or a remote basis depending on what happens.”
 
Baker said that his administration attempted to provide frameworks for school districts to think about the issue and that it was “inappropriate” for the federal government to mandate solutions for all 50 states where the conditions may be very different in two months.
 
“When we announced our proposal -- two weeks ago? -- we talked about the fact that we had over $900 million in resources, most of which was federal, that was available to support communities and school districts as they went through the process of figuring out how to develop these plans,” Baker said. “I think that’s a much more effective way for the feds to play in this space than to put a one-size-fits-all or ultimatum in place because facts on the ground are going to be different.”
 
Baker stopped short of going as far as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who on Wednesday said the federal government has no authority to decide if and when schools open.
 
“The president does not have any authority to open schools,” Cuomo said in his daily press briefing as reported by CNBC.com. “We will open the schools if it is safe to open the schools. Everybody wants the schools open.”
 
The last statement may have been in response to another part of Trump’s Tuesday tweet, where he alleged, “Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election.”
 
Baker was asked later in Wednesday’s press briefing what he thought was motivating the pressure from Washington, D.C. He declined to take the bait and tiptoed around the national political debate.
 
“I try not to speak to the intent of other people’s motivations when they make proposals and issue statements and policies,” Baker said.

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Baker Pauses Reopening, Ups Enforcement of COVID-19 Mandates

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com
BOSTON, Mass. -- Citing what he termed a “new phase” in the commonwealth’s battle against COVID-19, Gov. Charlie Baker Friday announced a new set of initiatives designed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
 
That means delaying the next phase of Baker’s plan to reopen the state’s economy and increasing efforts to enforce the social distancing and face-covering mandates currently in place.
 
“Due to that slight uptick in positive cases, we are indefinitely postponing step 2 of Phase 3 in our reopening process,” Baker said Friday afternoon. “Five weeks ago, we laid out new economic sectors that could reopen in Phase 3. This uptick in cases and reports of people not adhering to the guidance we have put forth here in Massachusetts means we cannot move forward at this time or any time soon in the near future.”
 
Baker cited an increase in the commonwealth’s seven-day average of positive test rates, which currently stands at 2.1 percent, up from the state’s low of 1.7 percent back on July 14, a rise of nearly 24 percent in that time frame.
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