CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) –  Senator Eric Lesser joined with Superintendent Lynn Clark, Chicopee Public Schools, to discuss back-to-school operations as well as the outlook for in-person learning with the threat of the Delta variant this fall.

The conversation was streamed live on Senator Lesser’s Twitter and Facebook pages at 12 p.m. on in-person learning how students and teachers are kept safe.

According to a news release sent to 22News from the Office of Senator Eric Lesser, Lynn Clark became the Superintendent of the Chicopee Public Schools in February of 2020. Superintendent Clark described what it was like to start in her current position one month before COVID-19 hit in February of 2020.

“In some ways, it was very good that I started then, because not only was I new, this was new to every other superintendent that I was meeting with on Zoom,” said Clark. “But it certainly was nothing like I dreamed it.”

Clark’s first administrative actions had to provide technology to the students and staff within two days of the shutdown and implement safety guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

For the current school year, current policies of in-person learning were reviewed. “We do have a mask policy from the state right now and actually the Chicopee School Committee had a jump on that,” Clark stated. “People seem to understand. Families, even though they may be against masks, they are saying, ‘we understand, we want schools to stay open no matter what’.”

This is not a social distancing mandate in classrooms however, they follow guidelines of distancing to the extent feasible within a given location.

The COVID-19 pool testing is scheduled to start soon and is being conducted by CIC Health. Nurses will then determin close contact of those that have been exposed to anyone who tests positive. “Everything funnels through the nurse and the nursing supervisor and they have it on a master sheet,” said Clark.

With regards to student mental health, Clark noted, “I think COVID-19 made this issue balloon…we are seeing a huge uptick in the amount of need for counseling” around topics such as anxiety, upended routines, behavioral needs, and students feeling as if they’re behind on learning. “It’s okay. That’s why we’re here,” concluded Clark, stressing the importance of family outreach, open discussion, and community.

Senator Lesser and Superintendent Clark also discussed implementation of the

According to the news release sent to 22News from the Office of Senator Eric P. Lesser, the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) was signed into law at the end of 2019 and supported by Senator Lesser. It rewrites the Chapter 70 funding formula for Massachusetts schools and directs record resources to some of our lower-income schools.

Chicopee Public Schools was able to establish tier-based counseling, added a Career Technical Education (CTE) position, rolled out an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) partnership, and expanded preschool programming with implementing SOA. “We feel right now that we are committed to doing what we had put in that plan,” stated Superintendent Clark.

Superintendent Clark advocated for increased social-emotional learning, expanded summer schools, and engaging students at a younger age in hands-on learning.