School Committee Meeting – November 12, 2020
The School Committee reconvened at 8:01 PM on Thursday evening, following a 7 PM executive session. Members voted to accept meeting minutes from August 3, 2020, meeting and quickly attended to business at hand.
Dr. Susan Kustka, Interim Superintendent, announced that the 2020-21 School Year Calendar would be examined by principals for equity of in-school learning time for both Cohorts A and B. If an adjustment is needed, it will occur following January 1, 2021. Additionally, Dr. Kustka was pleased that the fall sports season was very positive, but, although hopeful, she is worried about an indoor sports season following the winter break.
Chair Stacey Raffi addressed the public concerning a reported incident of poor student behavior last weekend at Holliston High School. She extended a heartfelt apology to adults Matt Baker, Athletic Director, Holliston Fire Chief Michael Cassidy, Ken Priest, Student Services, and Ms. Beth Smith, Wellness Faculty. She said, “I am not proud of the report received on Monday…Be respectful and kind. This is our community.” Dr. Kustka reminded everyone that regulations for safety and behavior represent not only those of the Holliston Public Schools, but also of the MA Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Tri-Valley Sports League.
Dr. Kustka provided a COVID-19 Update for the Committee. Last week a change to State metrics moved Holliston from a Red (high risk) to a Yellow (moderate risk) area designation. We have remained at Yellow for 2 weeks. The HPS dashboard is now displaying 5 COVID cases in 2 weeks. (See https://datastudio.google.com/u/0/reporting/d6039d6a-06ea-4e55-a487-3d47966e383d/page/RTUmB )
Last week MA Governor Charlie Baker and MA Commissioner of Schools Jeffrey C. Riley both said that they want kids back in school. They encouraged this to mean in-person learning. Dr. Kustka said, “The Commissioner is happy with the model in Holliston.” Although grades K-3 are in person for 5 days (if electing this option), grades 4-12 attend 5 out of 10 days in person and have direct instruction for all 10 days.
Concerning the flu vaccine, in-person learning students should be vaccinated no later than December 21, 2020. More than 200 students were vaccinated during the recent student flu clinic. If parents have not yet sent a vaccination certificate to the school, Dr. Kustka encouraged them to do so.
In a CARES Act update, Business Manager Keith Buday noted that Chief Cassidy advised him that COVID-related expenses should be submitted to FEMA first, and FEMA funds would reimburse 75% of approved expenses. This would entail $286,000 reimbursement from FEMA funds of an expended $402,000 prior to CARES Act submission. Additionally, not all COVID-related staff positions have presently been filled, so expenses still accrue.
The Committee voted to approve a capital request for $112,065.60 for replacement of Chromebooks and $90,000 to supplement an awarded $50,000 Green Communities grant for the purchase and installation of HHS Field House insulated panels to cover the paint-peeling interior walls. Anne Louise Hanstad, Chair of the Budget Sub-Committee explained the need for the expedited funds for both amounts.
Dr. Kustka also spoke of the need to adjust several 2020-21 District Goals due to COVID practices presently implemented. Using a shared screen of the document, SC members were able to see the changes suggested to several Priority Areas as Dr. Kustka explained the reasoning. The SC voted to approve the revised District-wide goals.
In new and other business:
- Dr. Kustka also began a discussion of the need to re-explore the HPS Strategic Plan due to the pandemic. The Committee decided to make this an agenda item for their next meeting.
- Buday reported that he has not yet received an answer to the Statement of Interest submitted in Spring 2020 to the MA School Building Authority.
- Dr. Kustka and Dr. Peter Botelho, Assistant Superintendent, displayed an initial draft of the Professional Development Calendar for 2021-22.
- Dr. Botelho provided a review of programs engaging teachers and staff during the November 3 Professional Development day.
- Chair Raffi signed warrants for school bills in the amounts of $248,565.66 and $132,883.95 (of which $3626.80 is COVID-related), and a cafeteria bill for $16,528.80.
Chair Raffi adjourned the meeting at 9:31 PM. The next meeting of the School Committee is December 10, at 7PM.