SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is planning to phase out remote learning entirely.
It would start with elementary school students back in the classroom full time by April.
Western Mass News spoke with several people Tuesday, from local elected officials to parents. This plan seems to have mixed reactions across the board some said these decisions should be up to local school committees.
"Kids want to be in school, learning alongside their friends, classmates, and peers," Governor Charlie Baker said.
Baker put his support with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, who said he wants all elementary school students back in the classroom five days a week beginning in April with middle and high school students closely behind.
“He’s not here in Easthampton; he’s not looking at our buildings; it’s not his job,” Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said.
LaChapelle said she thinks the city should be able to make reopening decisions for themselves and not be forced into a plan they don't agree with.
“With the legal advice I just got I don’t understand where the mandate would come from, but I am aware that if there’s strong guidelines the commissioner and DESE’s board can withhold funding for us to proceed,” LaChapelle said.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said teachers in her organization are furious.
“This plan came out of nowhere so that to me says it’s a bait and switch move by the governor who is attempting to take the spotlight off of his massive failure of a vaccine roll-out,” Najimy said.
She said they're still trying to figure out if Commissioner Riley has the authority to make these decisions.
“We’re still trying to understand it we have no details beyond a few loose ideas that the commissioner released,” Najimy said.
But some local parents sid it's about time students return to a traditional school day.
“What are we going to do to keep our kids home forever because we don’t know where the pandemic is going to be over,’ Springfield parent Dawn-Leanna O’Brien said.
O’Brien said her daughter has been out of school for almost a year. She said she will allow her child to make her own decision and she wants to go back to school.
“I think they really need the social part of going to school, and she really misses her teachers and the staff at school,” O’Brien said.
Other parents said it's comforting to know that under the commissioner’s plan parents can still choose to keep their children home until the end of the school year if they want to.
“I don’t think parents should be forced to make that decision, especially with everything so touch and go right now,” Chicopee parent Rebecca Wark said.
On Tuesday, Baker said around 400,000 students across the state have been learning remotely since last March. In Springfield, students begin a phased-in return to the classroom for the first time on March 15. Western Mass News reached out to the superintendent, but he said it was too early to comment on DESE’s plan.