School Committee Discusses Draft of Face Mask Policy

The Holliston School Committee met remotely on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, with virtual public participation.  Chair Cynthia Listewnik opened the meeting at 7PM.  Minutes from several prior meetings were approved by roll call vote:  Oct. 29, 2020, Dec. 3 and 10, 2020, and June 17, 2021. 

During the oral communication segment of the agenda, SC member Lisa Kocian voiced her concern about a website—purporting to be that of the Holliston Public Schools—that claimed the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the curriculum.  Kocian said,”This website is not associated with us or Diverse Holliston…and we are working to have the website taken down.”

Chair Listewnik thanked the ARPA Steering Committee (American Recovery Program Act) for funding full day kindergarten in Holliston. (See:  Superintendent Dr. Susan Kustka noted that parents’ tuition checks will be returned this fall.  The tuition free full day kindergarten begins with the incoming September 2021 class.

Assistant Superintendent Keith Buday reported that the resurfacing of Kamitian Field with new turf has been delayed due to the availability of materials and weather.  The completion date is now scheduled for September 1, 2021. 

Dr. Kustka introduced the new Director of Social and Emotional Learning and Equity, Jariel Vergne.  Vergne noted that he comes from a family of educators.  He began work in Holliston on July 19, 2021, bringing with him 16 years of public school experience.  He was previously a School Adjustment Counselor with the Brockton Public Schools as well an Assistant Principal at Normandin Middle School in New Bedford.  He told the SC, “I am excited to be a part of Holliston Schools where all feel comfortable.  I look forward to working with you.”  Members of the School Committee welcomed him aboard.

During a public comment segment, Buday connected members of the public at large with the SC members via remote connections.  Public comments concerned the face mask proposal of the School Committee.  . Chris Knoper, Leah Daniels, Karla Alfred, and Lisa Bartnikas shared statements and comments in support of a mask mandate for students and staff in the upcoming 2021-22 school year.  Callers Bud Drummey, John Sakera, and Susan Rose spoke against such a mandate or advocated for choice.  Drummey also asked that the SC stay flexible and responsive to data, requesting the SC be objective, sharing its data and how it is using it to make decisions.

SC Policy Sub-Committee member Dr Catherine Sevard read Policy EBCFA (Face Coverings) in its present draft format http://EBCFA Face Coverings.  Time allowed members to discuss and suggest revisions to the policy that was rescinded in Spring 2021. When asked for her recommendation, Kustka responded she supports a mask mandate because of “all of the unknowns.” She supports having Pre-K to grade 12 “all masked to begin the school year until we get a handle on any school transmission.  In 4 to 6 weeks, we can revisit.” Dr. Kustka added, “Jaime Cutone fully supports masking.” Cutone is the President of the Holliston Federation of Teachers.  Additionally, a draft has been shared with the community in print format.

The Policy Sub Committee will meet again prior to the next SC meeting.  At the August 26 SC meeting, members will vote on the final draft of Policy EBCFA.  As the SC has made protecting students a precedent, Listewnik recommended they revisit the Face Mask policy again in November to make any adjustments data and research may support. 

Chair Listewnik signed the following School Bills (prior to the meeting):  $23,388.77, $26,652.56, $317,514.34, $33,617.94, $1,768.90, $79.720.64, $$41,657.47, $108,272.74, $81,469.37, $194,416.72, $118,455.25; Cafeteria Bills: $6,646.55, $8401.52; and Student Activities Replacement: $8662.06 (HHS) and $886.93 (RAMS). 

The next School Committee meeting will take place on August 26, at 7 PM.  The meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM. 

Yvette Cain

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