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School Committee Meeting October 24, 2019

Chair Stacy Raffi opened the School Committee meeting on Thursday evening at 7 PM to an ambitious agenda to be followed by an executive session.

With a swift round robin, each member of the Committee and administrators present noted recent and upcoming activities of the school and community.  Of note is announcement of upcoming theater:  Mama Mia! and One Acts at HHS and a grade 5 play at Miller.  Looking backward, thanks were extended to Dr. Judith Owens for her School Start Times Forum presentation, and congratulations to SEPAC for a well-attended Trunk or Treat and to the HPD on their recent promotion and installation ceremony.

Julie Hermann (L) and Anne Buckley (R) were among those to address the School Committee

The next agenda item, Public Comments, included five Holliston residents, Julie Hermann, Catherine Savard, Deb Denison, Karen DiModica, and Anne Buckley, each sharing a position on the planned 2020-2021 school start time changes.  Savard spoke to clarify her statements from the October 10 Forum; Hermann, DiModica, Denison, and Buckley spoke in support of the planned start times.

Alison Quinan of the parent group Holliston Music and Arts Parents Association (HMAPA) reviewed donations made to Holliston teachers, elementary schools, and Adams School thus far in 2019.  Donations included teacher grants, ukuleles, tuners, instructional DVDs, printing and sculpting materials, and some wireless headsets.  She noted that membership to HMAPA increased 25% over this time in 2018, due, she conjectured, on flyers sent home in students’ information packets.  Membership information: HMAPA

Select Board member Tina Hein sought a letter from the SC in support of a $6000 grant application to Safe Routes to School.  If granted, the monies would be used to link the Holliston Rail Trail behind Holliston Oil on Woodland Street with a crosswalk in front of Adams School.  The School Committee voted to support, and Chair Raffi will draft a letter to accompany the application. Projects resulting from the grant monies must be completed by June 30, 2020.

Members of the SC voted to amend their Fall Town Meeting Capital request by eliminating the request for vape detectors, bringing the new request to $504,534.00.  Of this total, $350,000 will purchase new literacy curriculum materials for the elementary grades, and $75,000 is allocated for new gym bleachers at Adams School.  

A discussion of updates in working toward the planned 2020-21 School Start Times began with thanks to Bill Mayer, who served as moderator of the Forum held on October 10.  In pursuing further information, Dr. Brad Jackson, Superintendent, has reached out to Dr. Judith Owen, sleep specialist, the Wilton, CT school district administration, and to neighboring districts that have made a similar time change.  

Member Cynthia Listewnick met with the Hopkinton YMCA to discuss daycare options, one of which may be the outdoor center on South Street.   Listewnick plans a follow-up meeting on November 4.  Exploring alternate day care options, Raffi and Listewnick have a meeting with Holliston Park and Recreation personnel next week.  

Keith Buday, Business Manager, cited some of the possible bus transportation costs that might be incurred should alterations be made to the planned 2020-21 School Start Times.   

Dr. Jackson also researched the Acton/Boxborough school district, as it has a large elementary student population (1000 students) on its education campus.  (Placentino/Miller Schools have 1400 students.)  Members of the Holliston school administration observed the dismissal process at Acton/Boxborough that uses a queuing system for both buses and cars.  Jackson noted differences between the Acton/Boxborough’s and Holliston’s elementary schools’ dismissal procedures.  Whereas Acton/Boxborough was designed for a one-dismissal routine, Holliston’s three-school dismissal procedure was designed for three separate arrivals and dismissals.

In further follow-up to the collection of information about School Start Times, SC members Lisa Kocian and Dawn Neborsky requested a traffic study of the 3-school campus.  Select Board member Tina Hein referred the two to the town website where a person could obtain the 2016-17 traffic studies done in Holliston.  Chair Raffi shared her concern that the Finance Committee would not support a study of traffic.  Dr. Jackson agreed to have an estimate of the cost of a more extensive study of traffic for the November 14 SC meeting. 

Dr. Jackson shared a first draft of the 2020-21 school calendar, noting changes to beginning and ending dates and Professional Development days.  Discussion followed about four planned ½ days to provide for ½ day of professional development in the afternoon.

Members approved two field trips:  one to Quebec (June 25-29, 2020) for 40-45 students in grades 10-11, and one to Nature’s Classroom in Charlton, MA, for grade 6 students (April 28-May 1, 2020).

A reminder was made to all members to take and keep minutes of all sub-committee meetings.  Listewnick announced an upcoming training session by Town Clerk Liz Greendale on Open Meeting procedures.  Eights warrants were approved prior to the meeting’s close at 9:40 PM.

The School Committee will next meet on November 14 at 7 PM in the HHS Library.

Yvette Cain

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