Local districts are expressing surprise and doubt over state education officials’ goal to get elementary students fully in-person for class by April.

(WGGB/WSHM) -- How prepared is your child’s school for in-person learning?

Local districts are expressing surprise and doubt over state education officials’ goal to get elementary students fully in-person for class by April.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve heard six feet is the safe social distance to prevent the spread of the virus, but state education officials are now saying districts can cut that distance in half, spacing desks by three feet minimum in order to get kids back in class full time.

That’s not sitting well with local districts.

“Six feet is what a lot of districts are using as a standard and that’s what we’re currently using,” said Holyoke school committee member Devin Sheehan.

Sheehan told Western Mass News he was surprised to learn that six feet is not the standard that state education officials are using when it comes to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced their back to school goals, hoping to have all elementary students back in class five days a week by April.

To achieve this, DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley said students can be spaced three to six feet apart and that state officials work with districts struggling to meet even the minimum.

“There’s no guarantee that we’re going to be able to go to three feet,” said Westfield Public School Supt. Stefan Czaporowski

Czaporowski said typical class sizes are around 20 students for grades kindergarten through grade 2 and 25 students for grades 3 through 12.

Desk spacing is not the only concern. Czaporowski said the district could have to add lunch periods because the state’s recommendation to have kids eat in their classrooms won’t work

“Our teachers are guaranteed a duty-free lunch, so we don’t have the staff to allow our staff to eat and cover the classrooms,” Czaporowski explained.

Across Massachusetts, teachers are still waiting to be eligible for the vaccine as educators in neighboring Connecticut are able to get the shot March 1.

“If getting a vaccine will help them feel more comfortable with being in the school buildings, I’m all for it,” said April Smoke-Collins, a teacher in Connecticut.

Massachusetts educators, along with school administrators, are waiting for more guidance from the state on this proposal, they said, is currently lacking.

“There are a lot of complications and it’s certainly easy to issue an edict from the top but when you’re down here at our level and we have to work with what we have, you know, it’s a little bit different

We reached out to the biggest school district in western Massachusetts, Springfield. Their superintendent declined to comment on the state’s new proposal.

State officials have said this will be a phased-in approach and that they will offer additional transition periods for some schools, citing districts that are currently full remote.

How prepared is your child’s school for in-person learning?

 

Local districts are expressing surprise and doubt over state education officials’ goal to get elementary students fully in-person for class by April.

 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve heard six feet is the safe social distance to prevent the spread of the virus, but state education officials are now saying districts can cut that distance in half, spacing desks by three feet minimum in order to get kids back in class full time.

 

That’s not sitting well with local districts.

 

“Six feet is what a lot of districts are using as a standard and that’s what we’re currently using,” said Holyoke school committee member Devin Sheehan.

Sheehan told Western Mass News he was surprised to learn that six feet is not the standard that state education officials are using when it comes to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced their back to school goals, hoping to have all elementary students back in class five days a week by April.

 

To achieve this, DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley said students can be spaced three to six feet apart and that state officials work with districts struggling to meet even the minimum.

 

“There’s no guarantee that we’re going to be able to go to three feet,” said Westfield Public School Supt. Stefan Czaporowski

 

 

Czaporowski said typical class sizes are around 20 students for grades kindergarten through grade 2 and 25 students for grades 3 through 12. 

 

Desk spacing is not the only concern.  Czaporowski said the district could have to add lunch periods because the state’s recommendation to have kids eat in their classrooms won’t work

 

“Our teachers are guaranteed a duty-free lunch, so we don’t have the staff to allow our staff to eat and cover the classrooms,” Czaporowski explained.

 

Across Massachusetts, teachers are still waiting to be eligible for the vaccine as educators in neighboring Connecticut are able to get the shot March 1.

 

“If getting a vaccine will help them feel more comfortable with being in the school buildings, I’m all for it,” said April Smoke-Collins, a teacher in Connecticut.

 

Massachusetts educators, along with school administrators, are waiting for more guidance from the state on this proposal, they said, is currently lacking.

 

“There are a lot of complications and it’s certainly easy to issue an edict from the top but when you’re down here at our level and we have to work with what we have, you know, it’s a little bit different

 

We reached out to the biggest school district in western Massachusetts, Springfield.  Their superintendent declined to comment on the state’s new proposal.

 

State officials have said this will be a phased-in approach and that they will offer additional transition periods for some schools, citing districts that are currently full remote.

 

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