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Students in Boston, Providence, return to classrooms

September 9, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Students have returned to classrooms in Boston and Providence as the school year got underway in both cities Thursday.

In Boston, in-person learning resumed for students in grades 1 through 12, while kindergarten and pre-K classes will begin on Monday.

For some students, it will be their first time in a classroom since spring 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced classes online.

Many schools in other parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts have already resumed classes. Boston and Providence are the largest districts in their respective states, serving more than 75,000 students combined.

COVID-19 continues to pose challenges this year, as both Boston and Providence struggle with employment shortages that threatened to disrupt the start of classes.

Nearly 200 teachers resigned or retired earlier this year in Providence, joining more than 100 who left their positions in 2020. Gov. Dan McKee has asked retired teachers to consider rejoining the workforce to reduce the demand.

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In Boston, school officials warned of possible delays on Thursday because of a shortage of school bus drivers. Last week, the district was short more than 60 drivers, prompting a union representing bus drivers to urge the district to postpone the start of classes.

Schools across the nation have been grappling with driver shortages amid a labor market that has been tightened by the pandemic. Districts in some areas are offering drivers cash bonuses as schools work to reopen amid surging numbers of COVID-19 cases.