WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Questions remain after the state informed school districts that they're expected to get elementary and middle school students back inside the classroom next month. This is causing some tension among local school leaders.

There were mixed feelings Wednesday night as school districts work on plans to get students back in the classroom full-time. In West Springfield, one school board member felt obligated to speak out during Tuesday night's meeting.

"I'm not going to sit here and just let this commissioner's thing go and say I'm excited to get kids back to school," said William Garvey, a West Springfield Public School Committee member.


(Western Mass News photo)

Tensions visibly high during the West Springfield School Committee meeting Tuesday night, when one of the members, William Garvey, interrupted the discussion about plans to get students back to in-person learning. A directive was put out by Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley hours earlier.

"I will not continue this meeting in this manner. I'm fine to leave. You can finish your business, that's great. If you can shut it off, I'll stay. If not, I'm leaving," Garvey said. "I will not sit here and listen to this and watch this, and I would expect some support around this."

Shortly after, Garvey left the Zoom meeting.

West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt also attended the meeting. He told Western Mass News he understands the frustration.

"There are questions Mr. Garvey wants answering, and parents too that want more clarification on what's going to happen when we go back," Reichelt said.

But Reichelt is optimistic.

"When we shifted back to a hybrid in February, we, kind of, had the understanding that we wanted to be fully in-person at some point before the end of the year. It kind of sucks being told what to do, but I do think this will help us get to fully in-person, and I see April 5 as a good day," Reichelt said.

Garvey said he doesn't agree. Western Mass News caught up with him on Wednesday.

"To say that every school in Massachusetts is going to be back in session, full, on Monday, April 5, is so short cited. There's plenty of schools that, that will work fine that will, I'm confident," he said. "But to show for me, what's so short-sighted is, is what school buildings look like in Massachusetts."

Springfield Public School Superintendent Daniel Warwick focused on getting a waiver from the state.

"We're going to apply for a hybrid, which would be two to three days because we're fully remote right now. The commissioner has indicated that fully remote districts, that if they wanted to start hybrid, they would give them a waiver to do that," Warwick said.

He added that the plan to get students back in the classrooms is underway.

"We're still working on the collective-bargaining piece, but we plan to open up our pre-K to 5 students. We're going to include the 6th grade in that group coming back on April 5," he said.

Western Mass News told Springfield Schools should know in about a week whether their waiver is approved. The West Springfield School Committee has scheduled another meeting to discuss their in-person learning plan on Tuesday.

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