Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Dear Springfield Public Schools Community:
I hope that you and your families have transitioned smoothly back to school. It has been a joy to visit classrooms and meet our students over the last few days, and we are deeply grateful for your messages of support. The purpose of this letter is to update you on the progress we are making at relocating the classrooms impacted at Edward V. Walton Early Childhood Center, and the districts’ status regarding statewide transportation shortages.
Edward V. Walton Early Childhood Center Update
First, and most importantly, I would like to extend our gratitude to the members of the community that have gone above and beyond to help us to adapt and respond to the challenges posed by Hurricane Ida. Senator Tom Kean, Jr., Mayor Chris Weber, Interim Executive County Superintendent Daryl Palmieiri, and township officials have worked to advocate and support the myriad of issues we have navigated. Our building maintenance and custodial staff, led by our Business Administrator, Mr. Matthew Clarke, have been working tirelessly to move furniture and classroom materials. Our Walton staff, led by Principal Michael Plias, quickly shifted to meet their students virtually, and have already begun transitioning to new learning spaces.
Tomorrow will mark fourteen days since Hurricane Ida’s storms damaged the beloved Edward V. Walton Early Childhood Center. The significant damage to the school included the loss of a boiler room, and damage to flooring throughout the building, and walls in the back section. The remediation company concluded their work this week, and we are now working with contractors and engineers to address the reconstruction work. We are still estimating that the building will not be able to open for classes for a period of at least two months and may extend beyond five months.
On Thursday, September 9th, our Walton staff bravely met to gather and identify classroom materials necessary for their new classroom spaces. On Friday, September 10th, our Board of Education approved two temporary lease agreements to support the relocation of classrooms to the school property at St. James the Apostle Church and the Chisholm Community Center. Over the weekend, and throughout this week, our facilities and custodial staff have been relocating furniture into district schools and the Chisholm Center. After having been closed for over a year, the St. James school site has been undergoing a deep cleaning process and updates necessary to be ready to support fourteen classrooms.
In order to make sure that we are able to provide the best in-person experiences for our students and to ensure that all of the systems and procedures can successfully transfer from one school site to five school sites, we are anticipating the following dates for returning to in-person instruction:
Friday, September 17, 2021: All Walton students will remain on a virtual half-day schedule. This will provide additional time for our teachers to prepare rooms in the spaces that are now available.
Monday, September 20-Tuesday, September 21, 2021: All Walton students will be on a half-day schedule. Walton students assigned to Caldwell, Sandmeier, FMG, and Chisholm Community Center will report in-person. Walton students assigned to St. James will remain virtual on both days as we complete the furniture delivery and teachers prepare classrooms for students’ arrivals.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021: It is our goal to return to full-day in-person instruction at all of our new locations for all students. We will provide confirmation of this by the end of the day on Monday, September 20th, as we work to finalize preparations for the St. James classrooms.
Before the end of this week, Mr. Plias will share the specific building procedures for each of the locations, including information related to pick-up and drop-off procedures. In addition, before-care and after-care for Walton students is expected to begin on our first full day back, September 22, 2021.
While we fully expect that we will be able to open fully on Wednesday, we have found that many parts of this process have taken longer than expected due to a wide range of challenges. We will work to keep you updated should any issues arise that impact this schedule.
While we recognize that this continues to present a hardship for so many families, we are incredibly grateful for your understanding and patience as we finalize the spaces in preparation for in-person instruction and work to make our students’ learning and emotional needs our priority.
We know that some of our families continue to navigate the challenges related to storm damage. As a reminder, 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.
Throughout the state (and the nation) there have been ongoing personnel shortages for transportation. While we are thankful to have our own fleet of buses, we are challenged by a shortage of bus drivers. We are asking for your understanding as we anticipate the following issues:
For Walton students, all of the bus routes will remain the same, but the buses will drop off and pick up students from the students’ assigned locations. We expect that this will cause some significant delays in the afternoons, and families should be prepared for delays in student arrivals ranging from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on a wide variety of factors.
If you choose not to participate in the transportation program due to these delays, please reach out to the school to alert them of the change.
The Morning Bus Route #29 is currently suspended due to a lack of a driver.
Please know that we are continuing to look for drivers to support our program, and we understand that the State is monitoring the shortages. We will provide additional information as it is available.
Finally, for families observing the Yom Kippur holiday, we wish you a peaceful day of observance.
Superintendent of Schools
Cultivating compassionate and extraordinary learners!