Remote, But Maintaining Screen Proximity

Chair, Stacey Raffi, opened the HCAT live streaming of the March 26, School Committee (SC) meeting by reading Gov. Charlie Baker’s order concerning the open meeting law.  As of March 15, remote participation is an acceptable way for elected town committees and boards to meet.

The SC voted to meet remotely shortly after Stacey opened the evening meeting.  This meeting followed the Committee’s executive session that began at 6:30.  The agenda was abbreviated, listing only “Update and Discussion on COVID-19 School Closures Issues and Challenges.”

Superintendent Dr. Brad Jackson began the update with a review of actions by school personnel, as Thursday, March 26, was the 4th day of the rollout of the HPS Educational Learning Opportunities (ELO).  Principals of the schools have reached out to Holliston school families and the school staffs were reaching out to students, being sure to check in on their social and emotional health.  Staff has also been coaching families and students in their access of the ELO’s.

On Thursday afternoon, the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released guidelines for assessing the learning plans and lessons.  Jackson said Holliston would make some adjustments and changes as necessary to comply with all guidelines.

The DESE guidelines highlighted by Jackson include these:

  • The experience should engage students in meaningful and productive learning for approximately ½ the length of a regular school day;
  • The experience should provide an opportunity to connect with one or more educators at least one time per week;
    • Time should be provided each day for physical activity; and
    • Additional daily time for enrichment activities such as the arts.

(For more information on DESE guidelines, see “Remote Learning Recommendations During COVID-19 School Closures”:

Jackson continued his update by looking at the week ahead, “We need to assess how many students we reach and the number not reached.  We need to know why some are not engaging and reach out to families.” 

He plans an assessment of the district’s Remote Learning Plan using the DESE guidelines.  A “Phase II” of the Remote Learning Plan will be completed by next Friday, followed by a roll out on Monday, April 6. 

Following this update, members of the School Committee shared their comments and questions.  Chair Stacey Raffi is concerned for the HHS juniors and seniors and their parents, and would like to do whatever possible to help this group particularly. 

Members concerns included the following:

  • The ability of the district to offer extended services to students in need.
  • The unique need of HHS students, given a block schedule and the students’ subject area and time requirements.
  • Possible impediments to technology access.
  • Expectations of the process and content of Advanced Placement exams.
  • Students’ readiness to learn.
  • Readiness for next year.

Concerning the budget, the Budget Sub-Committee planned to meet Friday (March 27), send its recommendations to all members of the SC, followed by vote by the School Committee on budget FY2021 at its next April 2 meeting.

By unanimous vote, the School Committee approved paying the Extended Day staff through May 4, 2020.  Raffi also reported paying the following warrants:  school bills of $220,813.46 and $204,971.68, and cafeteria bill of $22,150.45. 

Raffi concluded the meeting by encouraging residents to watch the March 23 Select Board meeting.  She gave special thanks to HFD Chief and Emergency Management Director Michael Cassidy for all he is doing. 

The meeting adjourned at 9:09 PM.

Yvette Cain

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