SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Springfield Public Schools reports that it now plans to bring elementary school students back to the classroom on April 5.

Superintendent Daniel Warwick said the move is contingent to successful negotiations with the district's unions.

"I don’t mind it. I know my daughter is excited about it because she does miss being around her friends. But I don’t think she’s prepared for what she’s going to see," said Springfield parent Liz Beth Cruz. 

According to Warwick, those being considered to start on April 5 include:

  • Students in grades Pre-K through 5
  • Highest need special education students
  • Students with limited or interrupted formal education
  • Vocational students in grades 10 through 12

Springfield's announcement comes just days after state officials announced their plans to have all elementary school students back in classrooms by April.  They said middle and high school students would follow shortly thereafter.

“I think they’re going to be doing what they have to do. But at the same time, I think because they have been quarantined for so long, they might get the common cold, the stomach flu, or something like that," Cruz said. 

While the state is asking that all elementary school students resume in-person learning five days a week, Springfield's plan proposes a hybrid return plan, which would be a mix of in-person and remote learning during the week.

But the president of the Springfield Education Association, Maureen Colgan-Posner, believes teachers should be fully vaccinated before returning to the classroom.

“I mean we need to get vaccinated before mid-March because it takes longer than that. But we did a survey of our numbers, and 88 percent said they are comfortable going back when they’re vaccinated," Colgan-Posner said. 

Warwick plans to seek a waiver from the state to allow hybrid learning, rather than full in-person, based on the city's current COVID-19 risk level.  

“We’ve been doing a lot of work preparing our buildings. We’ve done about $1.5 million worth of work on our ventilation systems, and we’ve bought the PPE supplies and provided a lot of training to our teachers," he explained. 

The state's mandate does allow families the right to choose remote education for the rest of the school year.

Springfield Public Schools added that the plan was presented to the city's school committee on Thursday and includes a phased-in return for students in grades 6 through 8, followed by high school students.

The school committee is expected to vote on the plan in the coming weeks.

Western Mass News will continue to follow this story and will have more information as it becomes available.

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