SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Classes are almost back in session in Springfield and the school district is informing parents and students of what to expect this year.

The first day of school for kids grades 1st to 12th begins on Monday, August 29; Kindergarten begins Wednesday, September 7th; and preschool begins on Thursday, September 8th. However, the Springfield Realization Academy, Springfield Honors Academy, and the High School of Commerce all have different first days.

There are several new staff and updates this year that the Springfield Public Schools want parents to know about:

Universal Pre-Kindergarten:

Springfield Public Schools will be the first district in the state to provide free, universal full day preschool to kids ages three and four. About 2,000 seats are available this year in every elementary school, at Margaret C. Ells Preschool and at the Early Childhood Education Center. Balliet Pre-School at 111 Seymour Avenue is also a new preschool-only school.

School-Based Vaccine Clinics for Required Immunizations:

Big Y is working with the school district to help ensure students are up to date on their immunizations. Vaccine clinics will be available for all pre-school students during the beginning of the school year for families looking to get any vaccines. Vaccines required by Massachusetts will be available, as well as the flu and COVID-19 vaccines, which are not required.

New Principals:

  • South End Middle School – Yara DePalma Gonzalez
  • Balliet Pre-School – Jessica McCloskey
  • Brightwood Elementary School – Danielle Delgado

PACE becoming FACE:

The Parent and Community Engagement Center (PACE) has been divided into two branches, the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) and Student Assignment Services (SAS). Former Brightwood Elementary School Principal Jose Escribano will become the Chief of Family and Community Engagement and former Chief of PACE Lourdes Soto will be the Chief of Student Assignment Services Center.

Holding Center becomes the Student Care Center:

The Holding Center program at the Rebecca M. Johnson Elementary School has been renamed the Student Care Center. The center is used for students required to have a parent or guardian meet them at a bus stop. If the adult is not present when the child is being dropped off at the bus stop, they will be cared for at this location.

COVID-19 Guidelines:

Springfield Public Schools will not be requiring face masks or COVID-19 vaccines for students this year but masks will still be made available for students interested, while supplies last. However, masks will still be required in school health offices. Rapid antigen self-test kits will be available to students that display symptoms of COVID-19 with parental consent through October.

If a student tests positive for COVID-19 they must isolate for at least five days and can return if there are no more symptoms. Students returning to classes following COVID-19 infection may be asked to wear a mask up to day 10 after testing positive. If a student can’t wear a mask, they can only return after testing negative on at least day five.

Students that show symptoms of COVID-19 can remain in the school if they are immediately tested onsite and the test is negative. The school will recommend the student wear a mask until the symptoms are fully gone. If a student can’t be tested immediately, they will be sent home. The student will be able to return once they provide a negative COVID-19 test or if they did not have a fever for 24 hours and their symptoms have cleared up. Students with symptoms can return to school with a doctor’s notice.

Students that come in close contact with someone that has COVID-19 no longer need to quarantine, with the latest CDC requirements, but should wear a mask for 10 days and get tested at least on day five.