Students across the state are getting ready to return to in-person learning for the end of a school year like no other.

EASTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Students across the state are getting ready to return to in-person learning for the end of a school year like no other. The state is allowing some districts more time to get students back in the classroom, but for the most part, elementary kids will be full-time in-person by April 5.

Education officials said 90 percent of the state’s elementary students will be back in class fully in less than two week’s time.

Springfield is in that 10 percent of schools being granted a waiver to transition into hybrid model first.

We spoke with Easthampton Public School Supt. Allison LeClair, who tried to get that same waiver and didn’t succeed.

“Our educators and our administrators are prepared to bring students back to a full return,” LeClair said.

LeClair told Western Mass News that the district’s attempt to delay elementary students full return to class had nothing to do with preparation. She said much of it was out of concern for educators who may not be fully vaccinated by April 5. That’s the date when officials with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said kindergarten through grade 5 must be back in class.

They report 90% of districts are conforming to this.

On April 28, middle school students will return to the building full-time and May 3 is when the 10 percent schools granted a waiver for more transition time, including Springfield, must have all elementary students back.

Easthampton’s fifth graders where granted a waiver to return later than April 5, LeClair said, because their fifth grade is part of the middle school.

However, she said the waiver to delay all elementary students returning was denied

“The committee has asked that I do an appeal to the Department of Ed. which we’re in the process of submitting,” LeClair added.

In the meantime, LeClair said it is her goal to bring K-12 students back by the end of April before the state’s official due date for even high schoolers.

In order to help ease the transition in the time of year when many students may be apt to daydream about summer vacation, LeClair said some changes are being implemented

“Having meals and mask breaks outside, we’re going to have tents at our schools,” LeClair explained.

LeClair also said her teachers are prepared to be patient with students who have attempted to learn in a world shutdown by COVID-19

“We anticipate there will be a lot of mental health challenges with our students. There are academic challenges,” LeClair said.

Susan Edwards, a teacher with Springfield Public Schools, added, “We’re going to get the kids and the kids are going to be spending a lot of time learning brand new routines in order to stay safe.”

Western Mass News also spoke with a Springfield elementary school teacher about the task of keeping young students focused as they sit back in their classrooms for the final stretch of the school year - just seven weeks. For her special needs students, she worries about maintaining the level of care she says they require to be successful.

“Being around the kids is going to be great, but not being able to hug them, not being able to have a lot of that hand-over-hand assistance, our high special needs kids need. Those are the things that concern me,” Edwards said.

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