Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick said the proposed plan is contingent upon successful negotiations with the district’s unions and that the inclusion of elementary school students by the April 5th date is a direct response to the announcement by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) earlier this week. The department announced that it is seeking to mandate the return of all elementary students to in-person learning five days per week beginning in April. However, the Springfield Public Schools plan proposes a hybrid return model, which would include a mix of in-person and remote learning for students in a single week.
Warwick said the district plans to seek a waiver to allow the hybrid return rather than full-week return based on the City’s current COVID-19 status, which is red. He added that under DESE’s proposed mandate, families still retain the right to choose remote education for the remainder of the year.
The plan, presented to the School Committee during a working session last night, also includes a phased-in return for students in grades six through eight, followed by high school students. The School Committee is expected to vote on the plan in coming weeks at a regularly scheduled meeting.
Warwick added that the district had already been preparing for a hybrid return this spring, but the DESE announcement required adjusting the timing of elementary school students. However, Warwick added that health and safety aspects of the district’s plan were fully complete and remain intact. Ventilation upgrades have been made in every school building, classroom by classroom, Warwick said. And the district is fully stocked with personal protection equipment.
“We have been working very hard ever since the pandemic first hit to put measures in place to help ensure a safe return and we are ready to go in that regard,” Warwick said, adding that the district has spent millions of dollars on COVID-related upgrades, equipment, and supplies. “Mayor Sarno and the School Committee made it very clear from the start, that health and safety of students and staff is the highest priority and, at every turn, they made the funding available to support that.”
Warwick said schools are in the process of reaching out directly to families and providing detailed information about health and safety measures and the protocols, routines and practices of in-person learning.