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Springfield Schools Look To More Remote Learning As Buildings Remain Closed

a man handing a brown bag lunch to a woman with children

      Steps are being taken to help students continue learning while at home in the third-largest school district in Massachusetts. 

     Along with the bags of sandwiches handed to parents and their children at the Rebecca Johnson Elementary School in Springfield on Tuesday, packets of grade-specific study-at-home math and reading lessons were also passed out.

     School officials printed thousands of hard copies from an online education platform to distribute at each of the 16 grab-and-go meal sites that have been set up in the city.  The material is also on the school district’s website. 

    It is part of an effort to keep the coronavirus-caused closure of all schools in Massachusetts from being treated as a long vacation, said Christopher Sutton, the principal at Rebecca Johnson.

"When they get these supplementals they can go right in and get started and pick up almost where they left off when they were physically in the building, " said Sutton.

   The school has its own website where students are being encouraged to participate in class projects.  Also, Sutton said teachers are staying in touch with children and parents through a communication app called “ClassDojo.”

    "We are trying as best as we possibly can to keep kids in contact with their teachers and with learning," said Sutton.

    The Springfield Public Schools have invested heavily in technology.

    A few years ago, the district bought laptop computers to give to every student.  But, a pilot program began only this year to allow a limited number of the laptops to be taken home.

    School officials are now looking for ways for students to have laptops at home, according to Azell Cavaan, the communications director for the Springfield schools.

     However, she said Wednesday that school officials do not know how many students have broadband internet access at home.  Also, the laptops would need to be connected to a home wifi network.

    There is real concern that children could fall behind the longer they remain out of school, said Laura Flynn, president and CEO of Link to Libraries.

     " Yes there is an incredible amount of learning loss," said Flynn. " If nothing else, if a child keeps reading through this and improves literacy schools then we won't be at a total loss."

    The nonprofit organization handed out over 1,000 books at the Springfield school lunch sites Tuesday – each one packaged separately and labeled by grade.

    The books came brand new from the organization’s warehouse.  Flynn thanked MGM employees who helped package the books and transport them to the lunch sites.


Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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