SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -The 2021-2022 school year in the Springfield Public School District began with masks, outdoor assemblies, and celebrations.
While students from three schools in Springfield walked into new or newly renovated buildings on their first day, others began receiving state-wide recognition for academic achievement.
Wilson’s Creek Intermediate is one of eight Missouri schools recently named 2021 Gold Star Schools.
The program aligns with the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, recognizing schools for outstanding academic achievement and performing at high levels while serving a significant proportion of disadvantaged students.
The award prompted a visit from Missouri’s Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven, who spoke to students about what it takes to become a successful school.
“The safety of our students and our staff are always the top priority,” said Commissioner Vandeven.
Springfield Public School Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan spent the morning visiting schools that were recently rebuilt or renovated.
“I’m excited our students are going to be learning, some of them in new facilities. We have outstanding principals and teachers, and it’s going to be a great year,” said Dr. Lathan.
Students attending Boyd Elementary this year will do so in a brand new, $20 million facility. Meanwhile, high schoolers at Hillcrest will get to enjoy renovations recently made to the facility built in 1957.
At Williams Elementary, teachers like Sharon Murphy were also able to welcome students into a brand new, $18 million building.
“I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of our patrons to give us this. I never in my life thought I’d teach in a building like this. I’m overwhelmed,” says Murphy, who just began her 35th year with the district. “The room is overwhelming to me. To think that huge space is all mine, and for our kids to have this state-of-the-art building, it’s beyond my wildest dreams.”
The projects were made possible by Prop S, a nearly $168 million proposal to renovate or rebuild several buildings in the Springfield Public School system.
Speaking with media this morning, Vandeven said she believes all schools in the state will be returning to in-person classes this fall.
She says that the Missouri Department of Education will stay informed while continuing to promote mitigation strategies and encourage vaccinations among eligible students and staff.
Meanwhile, Dr. Lathan says that the first few days will involve balancing out classrooms and adding teachers where needed.
She says the district will be watching closely for new cases of COVID-19 over the next few weeks but has no regrets about requiring masking for all students and staff.
“We all, including myself, wanted to start the year without masks, but it is what we must do in order to keep our students and staff members safe. Today is the first day of school, but people are doing what they need to do so our children could be in school five days a week, and it’s worth it.”