School Committee: August 20, 2020 Meeting

Following an Executive Session that ran until 7:00, the School Committee (SC) Chair Stacey Raffi called the remote Open Meeting to order at 7:03 PM Thursday evening.  Meeting minutes from May 28 Special Session, July 9 Executive Session, and July 23 Regular Session were approved. 

In a communication from the MA Attorney General’s Office concerning the Open Meeting Law Violation of the School Committee’s School Start Times Sub-Committee, meeting minutes from September 2016 through November 2019 had to be shared and approved by the School Committee.  Prior to Thursday’s meeting, all members received minutes created to the best of their ability by the School Start Times Sub-Committee members at that time (Stacey Raffi, Cynthia Listewnik, and Martha DeVoe).  Lisa Kocian noted, “No one was aware [at that time] of the violation.  This was a technicality, not a reflection on the sub-committee.”  SC members attested to the efforts of the three committee members to attend to details, using notes from each of them as well as consultation with then Superintendent Dr. Brad Jackson to recreate documents that recorded–as accurately as possible–minutes of each meeting within stated dates.  The motion to approve these minutes was passed 6-1, with Dr. Catherine Sevard abstaining.

In Communication, Listewnik mentioned the 100th anniversary this week (August 18, 1920) of the 19th Amendment—Women’s Right to Vote.  Keith Buday, Business Manager, shared news that the National School Lunch program received funding to continue to provide lunches for the community through September 15. 

Rachel O’Donnell, Outreach Coordinator of MA Safe Routes to School

Select Board member Tina Hein introduced Rachel O’Donnell, Outreach Coordinator of MA Safe Routes to School.  O’Donnell presented “Holliston Safe Routes to School Program: Promoting Sustainable and Active Student Transportation,” noting that Adams, Placentino, and Miller Schools are partners with the Federally funded program.  O’Donnell provided background information as well as benefits to the community:  educational and evaluation tools, and arrival and dismissal assistance. 

In noting several “next steps” for Holliston, O’Donnell emphasized the need to form a Task Force to “Help make the program sustainable,” as well as “Troubleshoot concerns from parents, schools and community.” Hein said, “Next is a critical step,” and she will reach out to the PTO to begin the process of creating a Task Force.

In New Business:

  • Chair Raffi stated that the “COVID 19 School Closure Update” will no longer appear on the SC meeting agendas, as they are now about “School Opening.”
  • Dr. Peter Botelho, Assistant Superintendent provided:
    •  Summer Curriculum Update: More than 45 curriculum projects, some occurring presently included involved personnel from all schools and several disciplines.
    • Teacher Professional Development Update September 1-15:  These days will prepare staff for in-person and remote learning.  Topics will include health and safety, hybrid and remote teaching and learning, technology equipment use, synchronous and asynchronous learning, and equity and anti-bias.
  • Listewnik, Chair of the Policy Sub-Committee, completed an oral first reading of new Policy EBCFA, “Face Coverings.”  A second reading will take place at the next School Committee meeting.
  • Interim Superintendent Dr. Susan Kustka provided several updates:
    • School Reopening
      • Kustka stated, “There are still unknowns, and everything is subject to change, but we will get information out to parents as soon as possible.” 
      • A parent survey is reopened to collect more data to plan more effectively.  Data gathered has an impact on staffing.
    • Extended Day:
      • Dr. Kustka said, “At this point, I am concerned that we may not be able to offer this.” She will make a decision in the next week or so.
    • “Family Q &A’s”:
      •  Will be held next week for all schools.  Each building principal will email parents with dates and times.
    • Health and Safety Monitor positions:
      • Dr. Kustka presented a Job Description for Health and Safety Monitors.  Thirteen monitors, one per grade level, will provide the extra hands needed to “perform daily symptom assessment at entry points; focus on eliminating or minimizing health and safety risks,” among other tasks.  Buday said, “The cost to the District is $286,195 to be paid for from CARES money.”  The School Committee voted unanimously to approve this position and the hiring of 13 monitors. 
  • Buday reported:
    • He has purchased 4 outdoor tents (one for each school building) as well as 800 outdoor chairs.  These purchases will make outdoor learning possible. 
    • All products used for school cleaning and disinfecting are EPA approved.  Additionally, disposable (not reusable) rags will be used.
    • Following guidelines from the MIAA (MA Interscholastic Athletic Assoc.), all Fall sports except Football and Cheering will take place. 
    • Transportation lists should be compiled by next Friday and communicated to parents at that time.

Chair Raffi reported no warrants had been signed this week.  The next Executive Session of the School Committee is August 27 at 7:15 PM.  The next Open Meeting of the School Committee is September 10.  The meeting was adjourned at 9:29 PM.

Yvette Cain

1 Comment

  1. Steve Nault on August 23, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    It sounded to me as though the committee thought that remote learners were exempt from the requirement to get a flu shot. They are not as far as I read the state notice.

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