Mayor Reichelt addresses petition for vote to fully reopen schools in West Springfield

Coronavirus Local Impact

**Video courtesy of Mayor Will Reichelt’s Facebook page**

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt addressed a petition for a town vote on whether or not the city should fully reopen schools Monday morning.

He addresses the fact that there are many different opinions on the subject and took it as an opportunity to discuss local government and advocacy and that not everyone will agree on every issue. He highlighted the following five reasons for it:

  1. The debate is about the kids
  2. The coronavirus pandemic
  3. Reopening schools has been viewed as an us versus them argument
  4. The process of reopening schools, during a global pandemic, is complex
  5. There are multiple perspectives to take into account

The school district decided on August 10, after a unanimous vote by the school committee, that classes will begin remotely before moving through a phased restart of in-person instruction. The decision for students to being remotely was proposed by the school superintendent.

Remote learning will run at least until November 2 with a planned reassessment scheduled for October 26. Based on that reassessment, full remote learning will continue into December or a hybrid plan will begin.

He released the following statement in regards to the petition to his Facebook Monday morning:

“As I’m sure you all know by now there is a petition circulating for a town vote on whether or not we should immediately and fully reopen schools. Despite this one petition, there are many different opinions on this subject. But regardless of your feelings on this one issue, this honestly brings up a great opportunity to talk about local government and advocacy. Rarely are people going to agree on every issue in any community, especially one as emotionally charged as the debate to reopen our schools during a global pandemic. I see five main reasons for this.

First: this debate is really about kids and anything about our kids is going to be personal and bring out strong feelings on all sides of the issue.

Second: as I mentioned before, there’s a global pandemic raging, a flu-like illness, that many people continue to question as a “real threat” to anyone, especially our younger students, as COVID mortality has shown to target our older population and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Third: the issue of reopening schools has been framed as an us versus them argument, parents and taxpayers versus the teachers union; the economy versus organized labor; a zero-sum game of winners and losers.

Fourth: the process of reopening schools, during a global pandemic, is complex. Talking about the additional precautions needed to prevent close contact of students and staff, logistics of transportation and food service, staffing issues with the new isolation rooms as well as people who are older and/or immunocompromised, equity around synchronous learning for students in schools, and those that stay remote, and that fact that schools generally are underfunded, to begin with, and all these changes are expensive.

Fifth: there are multiple perspectives to take into account, this isn’t one group of people that want to stay remote and another that want to go back but a mix of people who truly just want what they believe is best for their child and the community.

All of the above means there is no easy, simple answer. But it does mean that we do appreciate your feedback, as elected representatives, we WANT to hear from you. We are always seeking input to help drive our decision-making. We are always looking for the best outcome for our community and often that is done with little feedback until after a decision has been made. I encourage you to be involved and speak your mind, we want to hear from you. We did what we did to protect our students and staff. Not to use them as guinea pigs. We said we would evaluate the regional opening process and begin our pivot towards hybrid as we gained more knowledge and a better understanding of the situation as it unfolded. So far things seem to be going well, both regionally and statewide, though there have been a number of newsworthy events including Pope Francis starting fully open then quickly shifting to full remote as student exposure spiked, Attleboro parents who knowingly sent their COVID infected child to high school, and Sudbury where both students and parents have been criminally charged for a large party that forced the school remote.

We already started talking about our move to hybrid and we’ll have more information next week. But I just want to ask all of you one thing. Please keep the debate civil. The people on the other side of your keyboard are your neighbors, parents to your kids’ friends, patrons of local restaurants, West Siders all who love this town just as much as you. We’re all in this together and some civility will go a long way in keeping us together.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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