Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Dear Springfield Public Schools Community:
I hope this letter finds you and your family recovering from the impacts of last week’s storms. To those that celebrate, I hope you have enjoyed the comfort of family and friends to welcome the Jewish New Year.
One week ago, we were celebrating the reopening of our schools with our staff, sharing the excitement of a new school year, and preparing to welcome back students. It is hard to believe the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families that are still struggling to manage the challenges related to storm damage. If your family needs support due to being displaced or a loss of back to school items, please reach out to your principal so that the district can be of assistance.
Tomorrow, we will be excited to start the school year as scheduled in 4 of our 5 buildings. As a reminder, masks are required for students to enter the school buildings, and I know that there will be enormous smiles behind our masks as we start this new year. This is certainly not the “Welcome Back” letter that I imagined writing, but there are no words to express my excitement at seeing our classrooms full again!
At the same time, I am heartbroken to share that one of our schools will not be opening as planned tomorrow, and that we have a great deal of work ahead of us to welcome back our youngest students.
We are thankful for the ongoing work of our custodial and building maintenance teams who have gone above and beyond to clean and prepare the buildings and support the building remediation work.
Edward V. Walton Early Childhood Center Update
As I noted in the letter shared last Saturday, we are facing ongoing challenges with the opening of Edward V. Walton Early Childhood Center. It suffered significant damage from the storm, and the remediation company has worked through the weekend, and continues to work to remove impacted carpets and remove water from interior spaces. During the storm, the boiler room that serves the older section of the building had significant water damage, and all of the machines (boilers, hot water heaters, etc) will have to be replaced prior to reopening the classrooms. We estimate that the building will not be able to house students for a minimum of two months, with a strong probability that it could be over five months.
While this is certainly upsetting, our commitment to returning to in-person instruction has not waivered. First, we have identified classroom spaces in our district that can support some of the displaced Walton classes. Next, thanks to the incredible support of Mayor Weber and Interim Executive County Superintendent Daryl Palmieri, we are actively working to negotiate lease and service agreements to utilize classroom space at the Chisholm Community Center and at the St. James the Apostle school building. Father David Santos and the St. James the Apostle Church are incredible partners in this work, and we are going through the process to utilize the spaces available.
In addition, because we are still working to finalize the usage of the buildings before we can clean and move into those spaces, we will need to begin our school year virtually. Monday, September 13th, Tuesday, September 14th, and Wednesday, September 15th, will be virtual half-days for all Walton students. This provides time for our teachers to move into their temporary classrooms and prepare the spaces to welcome students, and adjust the schedules and guidance necessary to support the transition to the spaces. Mr. Plias will follow up with specific information regarding the schedules before the end of the week.
While we are hopeful that all of the classrooms will be available to start in-person at some point next week, we will be working through the weekend to finalize the usage of space, and will be able to provide more specific information about building and classroom assignments early next week. We hope to start in-person instruction on Friday, September 17th, however some classrooms may be delayed, and we expect to provide updates throughout next week.
To support virtual instruction, we will be following up to identify families that are in need of technology and working to make sure that everyone has the access they need to begin the school year.
While we recognize that this presents a hardship for so many families, we kindly ask for your patience as we identify which classrooms will need to begin virtually, with the commitment that we are working as hard as we can to get students into in-person learning spaces as quickly as possible.
We ask for your understanding as we work expeditiously to relocate 28 classrooms throughout the coming days, and there are many parts to moving the classrooms that we are working to address as quickly as we can. There is no question that where classrooms are relocated may be inconvenient for everyone; we will ask for your patience and understanding as we work to make our students’ learning and emotional needs our priority.
Superintendent of Schools
Cultivating compassionate and extraordinary learners!