(WGGB/WSHM) -- The governor of Massachusetts is doubling down on a letter sent to 16 school districts across the state, including some in western Massachusetts: send your kids back to school or possibly face an audit.
Based on the letter, these districts have to give state officials more details on their in-person learning plans by Monday.
West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt, who is also on the school committee, is calling the governor’s threat of an audit on his district is just that - a threat - and one he believes is unfair
“Scare tactics from Boston is what they seem to be doing,” Reichelt said.
The West Springfield school district is one of 16 in the Commonwealth being pressured to bring students back into classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is demanding the currently remote district to provide them more information on when they plan to start in-person learning.
Reichelt said he doesn’t intend to change his plan to bring students back for hybrid model in mid-October.
“Then ideally a full return…I guess that’s really going to depend on how the flu season plays out early next calendar year,” Reichelt noted.
Gov. Charlie Baker said, “Depending on the response provided by the district, the department has the option of pursuing an audit.”
When asked by Western Mass News, DESE officials did not specify what criteria provided by a district would trigger an audit.
“I don’t even know what that would be, you know, in the midst of all this planning and all the work we’ve been doing is entirely frustrating,” Reichelt said.
Baker insisted the state’s COVID-19 case tracking map shows that West Springfield and East Longmeadow are safe to begin reopening.
“Local officials run their local schools. We understand that, but this data is an obligation to ensure that local officials are providing the best possible education,” Baker explained.
Reichelt added, “Well, the map was never required to be used as an opening guide and if it was, that should’ve been told us in August.”
Reichelt said the district is in full throttle securing PPE and working on isolation rooms in addition to working out the kinks in their remote model, should they have to pivot back later in the year. He said it’s all work that’s being done without Boston’s assistance.
“To hear they’re going to come out and audit us, instead of offering us help…” Reichelt said.