WEST SPRINGFIELD — Parents and neighbors of Mittineague School are still collecting signatures, hoping to stop or even slow down the recent decision to close the town’s oldest and smallest current elementary school.

“These decisions are moving too quickly, and all the information is not being looked at,” said Erin Placey, one of the organizers of the petition drive, on Jan. 26 as the effort entered its second week. The petition group has until Feb. 8 to collect 2,414 signatures of registered voters in town — an amount equal to 12% of the total number of voters.

West Springfield’s School Committee voted 4-2 on Jan. 9 to close Mittineague School at the end of this year, following a recommendation from the Student Population Projection Committee and the superintendent. The committee met for a year and produced a report in late 2023 proposing to close not only Mittineague, but eventually also John Ashley, Memorial and Tatham schools, after building one larger school to replace them.

The School Committee also voted 5-1 to redraw the elementary school boundaries, shifting some Memorial School students to Coburn School, and dividing the former Mittineague enrollment zone between Coburn and Tatham schools. The purpose of changing Memorial School’s zone was to allow students whose first language is not English, who are currently bused to Coburn, to attend the same school as their neighbors.

The petition asks the School Committee to reconsider both of those votes. If the petition is successful but the School Committee does not change its vote, the matter would go to a town-wide ballot vote.

Placey said the petition drive is garnering support not only from the Mittineague community, but also from parents and alumni of the other schools that could close, and from people who think the plan hasn’t been adequately studied.

“Some folks are saying, this isn’t necessarily my issue, but when we talk to them about how the process felt rushed and at times disingenuous and not transparent, folks are easily able to make a connection, ‘what if an issue I cared about was in this position?’” Placey said.

At their Jan. 9 meeting, school officials noted that proposals to close Mittineague date back to at least 2005, and that this decision was one of the options the School Committee discussed when it formed the Student Population Projection Committee in spring 2022. Mittineague parents said they felt blindsided by the fact that after the final recommendation was made, there was just one School Committee public hearing, in December 2023, before the Jan. 9 vote.

Placey said some petition supporters are also worried about committing the town to an expensive building project. She noted that in addition to the proposed new elementary school, Mayor William Reichelt has been pushing to build a new DPW yard and a new police station.

Placey said the group plans to continue collecting signatures until the Feb. 8 deadline. Petitions will be available to sign 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 3-4, outside Stop & Shop on Riverdale Street; noon to 3 p.m. on Feb. 3 at West Springfield Pharmacy and Wellness on Westfield Street; and more times and locations to be announced. Placey said those who wish to sign the petition can also email wsneighborhoodschools@gmail.com to ask about signing sites, or see an updated list at bit.ly/WestsideSchools.

mballway@thereminder.com | + posts