Superintendents seeking COVID-19 guidance from state for 2022-23 school year

With back-to-school only a few weeks away, superintendents in western Massachusetts are currently on a call with state officials in hopes of receiving updated C
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 4:52 PM EDT
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WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - With back-to-school only a few weeks away, superintendents in western Massachusetts are currently on a call with state officials in hopes of receiving updated COVID-19 guidance for their classrooms.

That meeting, which was not open to the media, started at 3p.m. Monday afternoon. We checked in with the interim superintendent in West Springfield to get answers on what he hopes to see come out of it.

“The discussion has been… it’s going to be focused on the upcoming school year and preparedness with respect to COVID,” said Wester Springfield Interim Superintendent Vito Perrone.

Perrone spoke with Western Mass News ahead of Monday afternoon’s call with Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.

In May, DESE officials released updated guidance for the upcoming school year. To recap, the state will no longer supply COVID-19 self-tests to school districts. However, schools can purchase these tests through a statewide contract. Officials also strongly recommend limiting testing to symptomatic rapid testing.

Perrone told us what he hopes DESE will ultimately do.

“Be really clear with expectations and to be able to communicate those expectations clearly with us so we’re able to push that out to the families, the students, and our faculty,” he said.

We reached out to DESE officials ahead of Monday’s meeting who told Western Mass News in a statement in part, quote:

“We expect to send a memo out late this week with information about the coming school year.”

As for staffing, Perrone said that West Springfield is in a good position. There are only about 10 teacher positions open, and he is currently focused on hiring long-term substitutes.

However, there is one area of concern.

“The biggest challenge we are facing is the paraprofessionals, the uncertified staff who are integrally important to serving and meeting the needs of our students in the classroom,” Perrone told us.

The school district and school committee have tried to combat this by increasing pay and remaining competitive with other districts.

“It’s always a challenge to get them in the door when Springfield and Agawam and all the other districts are also looking,” Perrone said.

If you are interested in applying for teaching positions in West Springfield … you can find that information on the West Springfield Public Schools’ website.