School Committee – May 21, 2020

Chair Stacey Raffi called this week’s School Committee meeting to order at 7:21 PM on Thursday, (following an Executive Session).  Among items on this evening’s agenda were public comments, a COVID19 update, and user fee refunds.

The Committee heard remote public comments from two Holliston High School teachers, Krissey Chestna, a physics teacher, and Amanda Rivera, a chemistry teacher.  Both spoke passionately about their desire to be included in the HPS Administrative team’s School Reopening Task Force that had been mentioned by Superintendent Dr. Brad Jackson during the May 14 SC meeting.

Chestna mentioned her ability to provide feedback based on her experiences, to coordinate ordering, and to build relationships.  She said, “We want to guide your children.”   Rivera noted that she would like to work “alongside colleagues from all our schools.”  Areas of her expertise include scheduling, technology, professional development, and extra-curricular activities.   

Jaime Catone, President of the Holliston Federation of Teachers, also joined the meeting remotely to speak in response to a comment made by Dr. Jackson concerning the HFT and School Start Times.  Catone said that she requested to be a part of the planning, “to be a collaborative partner.  We are here at the table.  Will you work with us?”

Raffi thanked student representatives Mary Devoe and Aine Powers for their dedication to the SC this year.  Raffi said, “Thanks.  We’re proud of you.”  The two young women had opened most meetings of the School Committee with updates concerning HHS events, awards, and general goings-on around the campus.

Dr. Jackson invited HHS Principal Nicole Bottomley to introduce newly appointed Assistant Principal Karen Archambault to the committee.  Archambault, a Hopkinton resident, has been working as the Assistant Principal of the Westport Junior/Senior High School in Westport, MA.  She is replacing Ron Sudmyer, who was interim Assistant Principal.  She will begin on July 1. 

In his COVID19 update, Dr. Jackson said, “HHS will delay graduation to Saturday, July 25.  A senior car parade is planned for graduation day.  Public safety officials will work out the details.”

Dr. Jackson spoke of an email sent to parents on Monday in which he outlined his “plans for planning for the fall.”  Four possible scenarios were bulleted in the email:

  • “Business-As-Usual;
  • Full-Opening with Social Distancing/Safety Protocols and Equipment Required;
  •  Hybrid Model where only 50% (or some portion) of our students could be physically present in our schools at one time and the remainder would be taught remotely; or
  • 100% Remote model, similar to our current situation.”

Jackson said he and his Administrative team have used 23 factors to analyze each scenario.   At this time, planning is focusing on the “hybrid” scenario (bullet point 2).  “The first step is to create dividing criteria, then to further plan,” said Jackson. 

Responding to the public comments shared by Chesna and Rivera earlier in the evening, Jackson said, “The involvement of teachers is crucial.  I welcome their feedback and assistance.  I accept and appreciate it.” 

Jackson provided no update on School Start Times. 

Anne Louise Hanstad presented the FY21 budget recommendation of the finance sub-committee–$35,139,715.  This total represents an increase of +0.55% over FY20.  The sub-committee is also recommending a capital request for $518,086.  The School Committee voted to approve this budget.

Concerning user fee refunds, the SC voted to approve the creation of a $50,000 fund (from a kindergarten revolving account) from which parents of 2019-20 full-day kindergarteners (159 students) could apply for refund based upon “hardship.”  An email/letter will be sent to parents explaining the process. The amount of the refund will not exceed $1109, and the total refund will depend upon the number of parent requests received.

Pre-kindergarten parents will not receive a refund, as the program is 100% tuition based.  Both prior to and following COVID19 restrictions, these children received a ½ day program.

The final discussion concerned a refund of bus fees.  The School Committee voted to refund a pro-rated portion of the bus transportation savings due to school closings.  This amounts to $20.46 per bus pass, and will be return in approximately 4-6 weeks.    

The Committee also voted unanimously to approve recommendations to the Select Board policy of Capital.   Business Manager Keith Buday presented a monthly financial report.  Raffi signed warrants for two school bills:  $115,771.37 and $1809.76.

The next meeting of the SC is Thursday, June 4, with remote participation.  Tonight’s meeting was adjourned at 9:45 PM.

Yvette Cain

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