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WEST SPRINGFIELD — After decades of studies, subcommittee meetings and School Committee discussions produced a plan for closing Mittineague School that prompted unprecedented outcry, Mayor William Reichelt wants “a true master plan of the steps we can do moving forward.”

He told the School Committee on April 23 that he’s convening a new committee to consider elementary school needs and facilities across the school district. Unlike the 2023 subcommittee that recommended closing Mittineague, this one will be led by an outside consultant. Reichelt said the job will go out to bid, but that it’s likely to cost half a million dollars.

“But I think it’s money well spent in deciding what we’re going to do with the schools in the next 15 to 20 years,” he added.

At the April 23 meeting, Superintendent Stefania Raschilla delivered a 28-point response to comments she’s seen on social media or in emails asking about or criticizing the School Department’s plans for Mittineague School and the town elementary schools in general.

She noted that “the future plan for Mittineague has not been decided,” but emphasized that the previous closure proposal is off the table, and there are no plans, yet, to make any permanent changes.

The school will start 2024-25 with at least one big change from the current year: there won’t be any first-graders in the building. Raschilla said there are “not enough students to populate a full first grade classroom” next year, so the students who would otherwise have attended Mittineague next year will instead continue at Coburn School, where they went to kindergarten.

She acknowledged that some parents have been suspicious of this decision, seeing it as a way to phase in the school closure, one grade at a time. But Raschilla called it a matter of fairness to students and taxpayers, avoiding a classroom with less than 10 students while first-graders and teachers at other schools are in classrooms twice that size.

One way to make class sizes more equal would be to adjust the enrollment district map, something that hasn’t been done in decades, despite the changing demographics of West Springfield neighborhoods. School Committee member Robert Mancini said the last time the school boundary lines were shifted was “I think ’80 or ’81 — before the mayor was born.”

Raschilla said an adjustment of boundary lines would be part of the changes recommended by the committee and consultant.

mballway@thereminder.com | + posts