SOUTH HADLEY, MA (WGGB/WSHM)--Good news for South Hadley, as the State says yes to remote learning in light of the closure of their high school due to mold.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is granting a handful of days before students must return to classroom learning.
Tuesday night, the select board met to discuss the cost to get their school open and how they plan to pay the hefty price tag to make that happen.
A unanimous vote by the South Hadley Select Board allows town administrator Michael Sullivan to spend up to $500 thousand to fix the mold issue at the high school.
But not before plenty of frustration from board members as they discussed the ongoing closure of the school.
"For the people who might not know, who might be watching this meeting, who don't have kids in the schools getting updates from the superintendent, a compounding problem is that the state, until today, has not allowed for the high school to do any remote learning...To have it count as time learning, so these kids have just been sitting at home for an extra two weeks," said Andrea Miles of the South Hadley Selectboard.
Hundreds of South Hadley students were left in limbo until Tuesday when the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education finally granted a temporary waiver allowing for remote learning.
The state giving only five days, a slim time frame for the town to prepare for in-person learning.
"Everybody wants to solve this and get children back to school. one of the things that people are concerned about is cost," said Michael Sullivan, Town Administrator.
And rightly so, the estimated cost to clean up the mold: more than three-quarters of a million dollars.
At the meeting, Sullivan suggested and select board members agreed on the town spending $500 thousand of its $5.4 million received from the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA and try to get the rest from the State.
"People say aren't there other things we can spend this money on? Yes, there's a long list of things. But this is the most immediate, this is the one we have to solve right away. I think they need our financial support and our moral support in solving this problem," said Sullivan.
A problem Miles said was only made worse by the initial inaction from the State when it refused any alternative to in-person learning.
"Again, as with many things in the last year, I think how the school is being handled at the state level is shameful because this is not COVID-related. This isn't the school trying to say 'let's let our kids sit at home and be cozy'," said Miles.
South Hadley High School students will begin remote learning Thursday. In the meantime, a mold remediation company collected samples and test results are pending. As they await those results, no students or staff are allowed inside the building.