SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Different guidance and rules put in place for the last months of this unusual school year. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education hopes a majority of elementary and middle school students will be back in class full time by May, and high schoolers will likely come later.

From MCAS testing to proms and graduation, state health officials offering all kinds of COVID-19 safety adjustments so students can end the year on somewhat of a more normal note than when they entered it.

"I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s been a long year," said Springfield parent Nicole Shibley.

It’s been a school year that no one can forget. Shibley’s second grader is ready to go back to school on April 5, when state education officials said 90 percent of elementary students in Massachusetts will be going back full time.

Shibley initially wanted to stay full remote at the start of the year, but now...

“I understand that it’s time, and we have to do it," she said.

The state has decided to push back but not cancel MCAS testing. Officials added that it should be used not to rank in the performance of different schools. But to assess how the pandemic may have affected the students’ overall ability to learn the curriculum.

"We should not assume the teachers have not been assessing students all year," said Springfield College Education Department Chair Stephanie Logan.

Logan told Western Mass News that while high-stakes testing may be stressful for students in the last few months of school, it could provide districts with a broad picture of how existing divides in student performance have been affected by COVID-19.

"Opportunity gaps create achievement gaps," she noted.

For juniors and seniors, some of those rights of passage that every student gets to experience in non-pandemic years are no longer out of the question.

"DESE just came out with some new information and guidance regarding graduations and proms," explained West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt. "We’re planning for an in-person graduation and an in-person prom this year."

The state has put in capacity limits and other COVID-19 requirements for these events and the venues. The mayor of West Springfield said they are looking at possibly moving the annual commencement from the Big E Fairgrounds.

"We may be more limited because of the indoor requirements, and they’re a little more restrictive than the outdoor requirements, so we’re weighing the colosseum versus doing it at Clark Field behind the high school," he explained.

One big part of the back-to-school requirements are changing the spacing distance between students from six feet apart to three.

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