BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Great Barrington                     Stockbridge                  West Stockbridge

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING

Teleconference Meeting

August 13, 2020 – 6:00pm

Present:

School Committee:                 S. Bannon, D. Weston, B. Fields, S. Steven, M. Thomas, A. Hutchinson, R. Dohoney, J. St. Peter, D. Singer, A Potter

Administration:                       P. Dillon, S. Harrison, A. Shaw

Staff/Public:                             T. Lee, K. Farina, B. Doren, S. Soule

Absent:

RECORDER NOTE:  Meeting attended by recorder and minutes transcribed during the meeting and after the fact from live recording provided by CTSB.  Length of meeting:  1 hour, 05 minutes.

CALL TO ORDER

Chairman Steve Bannon called the meeting to order immediately at 6pm.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

The listing of agenda items are those reasonably anticipated by the chair, which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed, and other items not listed may be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law. This meeting is being recorded by CTSB, Committee Recorder, members of the public with prior Chair permission and will be broadcast at a later date. Minutes will be transcribed and made public, as well as added to our website, www.bhrsd.org once approved.

Minutes of Meeting:

  • Superintendent’s Report:
  • Re-Opening Plan(s) – P. Dillon – there are four things I want to share. One of them I will have Kate help me share.  The first one is public knowledge that we are in negotiations with our two groups, the teachers and the paras.  Those are ongoing and I think they are productive.  Big news since we last met, and I sort of foreshadowed this, the governor and the department of public health and DESE released a metric to help inform decision making around schools.  That is publicly available.  Some of you saw it in local media. There are actually two metrics.  One is a general one about communities and one is specific to schools.  We are expecting a little more guidance on how to aggregate sending towns to regional schools so the simplest way would be for us to just look at our three member towns, Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge.  A more complex analysis might include towns where we get tuition and choice students from and that is something I am sure we will talk about later tonight.  That is a change.  The other thing is we continue to get significant parent feedback about where we are in the process.  Though I am not telling every single response, the response from parents is largely in favor of at least moving to a hybrid model.  We are getting that regular feedback from parents.  The other thing I would like to do, at the end of the last meeting we talked a little bit about what we are doing for students with special needs and/or high needs students.  I would like to take a few minutes to have Kate Burdsall, our director of student services, talk about an emerging plan there.  I think it is about a 5-6 minute overview that she will do verbally and then after that, depending on what you want to do Steve, I can respond to some questions about that so the committee can go in whatever direction they want to go.  Burdsall – We have a potential proposal specific to high needs students with significant and complex needs to share with you tonight.  The proposal is just that.  It is still in draft form.  Nothing has been finalized yet; the details need to be agreed to and negotiated.  I will share some of the rationale behind the proposal, our guiding principles and values, information that will help to clarify pieces of the proposal, and a basic overview.  We know that our students with the most significant and complex disabilities benefit the most from being in school in, in person, in order to access their education by way of receiving the services in their IEPs.  Russell Johnston, Senior Associate Commissioner at DESE, has been consistent in his message that districts should consider ways to get the high needs students with the most significant and complex disabilities into schools for as much in-person learning as possible whether the district is in an all remote model or a hybrid model.  Given this clear message, we have created a proposal that addresses both of these models.  We created guiding principles and values for the special education department this spring once we entered the remote learning phase in April, and over the summer the special populations sub-group of the reopening committee made some shifts to these guiding principles and values.  Currently, these are the guiding principles and values for special education in Berkshire Hills:
  • Foster and ensure equity, access, inclusivity, quality, and consistency of learning experiences
  • Build and cultivate strong, meaningful relationships and connectedness
  • Support the safety, social, emotional, and physical well-being of students, faculty, and staff in our community

The proposal talks about specific subsets of students as well as three phases.  I’ll take a moment to define the phases and then subsets of students as I see them. I refer to three phases in the proposal and assume that there is a time and place to move from one phase to another and back again as the metrics and decision making might indicate.  Phase 1 is when the district is in the distance learning model, phase 2 is when the district is in the hybrid learning model and Phase 3 is when the district is in the in-person learning model.

  1. There are four categories in the first subset of students in Phases 1 and 2.  These are the students Peter refers to in his reopening plan as the students in Cohort A and these are the subsets of students that Russell Johnston, from DESE, suggests that districts prioritize for in-person learning.
  2. In Phase 1, the first category are the high needs students who have significant and complex disabilities – students who are in substantially separate classrooms and who have a high level of need in their IEPs, students who were unable to participate in remote learning based on their disability related needs and students who primarily communicate using alternative and augmentative devices.  The second category are the high needs English learners.  These are students who are dually identified as English language learners and students with disabilities as well as newcomers and students with limited or interrupted formal education.  The third category are preschool students with and without disabilities.  And the fourth category are the high needs homeless and foster care students who have disabilities.
  3. In Phase 2, the aforementioned identified students remain static while additionally identified students are added to three of the four categories.  Category one, students with significant and complex needs, expands to include students with disabilities who have a moderate level of need indicated in their IEPs, who are in partial inclusion programs and/or those who qualify for extended school year services in their IEPs.  Category two, English language learners, expands to include students with emerging English language acquisition skills based on routinely used assessment tools.  And finally, category four expands to include homeless and foster care students with moderate needs.

I will make the overview of the proposal rather simple.  In Phase 1, the distance learning model, we would suggest that the high needs students with significant and complex disabilities, the highest needs English language learners, the PK students with and without disabilities, as well as the highest needs homeless and foster care students receive as much in-person learning as possible while most of their peers and classmates are receiving learning virtually.  For this proposal, we suggest that the in-person learning begins on September 14 – it is a suggestion.  Again, there are many details to be worked out, negotiated and agreed to.

In Phase 2, the hybrid model, we would suggest that the aforementioned students as well as the expanded list including students with disabilities who have a moderate level of need, who are in partial inclusion programs, and/or who qualify for extended school year services; the English language learners with emerging language skills; and the homeless and foster care students with moderate needs would be in school four days per week during the hybrid model rather than two days per week.  They would join Cohort A in Peter’s reopening plan and therefore, this in-person learning would begin when we enter the hybrid model.  Again the details need to be worked out and negotiated.

Given what we know about our students, the guidance from DESE, what other districts in MA are working toward, we feel that this proposal takes all of this into consideration and is a reasonable place to begin.  Should the district move between Phases throughout the year, these students would receive in-person instruction as initially discussed.  We anticipate that we will revise, update, and change this proposal as we move forward in the next few days and weeks and negotiations will obviously be a critical piece for this proposal to be successful.

  • Dillon – thank you Kate. I think it is thoughtful and works well to meet the needs of our highest needs kids.  Steve, how would you like to proceed from there.  S. Bannon – let’s have the school committee ask questions about what Kate just presented before we go into public comment.  J. St. Peter – I think I know the answer to this but I would like you to respond publicly.  Preschool students  who do not have many disability needs would be approved in the first category.  Could you explain the reasoning behind that.  K. Burdsall – the reasoning behind that is that all the guidance that Russell Johnson has given us on bringing students back in to in-person learning is that we need to do it in the most inclusive way possible and the whole premises of our pre-k program is that our students with disabilities have peer partners and role models.  We desperately need to have them with our kids if we were to return them to school.  R. Dohoney – I think the plan is great.  Clearly a lot of thought.  If I have any specific questions on details, I can talk to Kate offline sometime.  This will be coming back to us at some future meeting potentially next week?  Not to put pressure on you but this committee is being asked to make decisions in the next few weeks and it is challenging.  P. Dillon – it is very challenging.  I think we will get this to you as a written proposal in the context of all the other work we are doing.  I think we ask for your recommendation or vote to implement it.  S. Bannon – do you think that will be by next Thursday?  P. Dillon – from a writing perspective, yes; from a negotiating perspective, that remains to be seen.  Hopefully.  R. Dohoney – that is fair.
  • Public Comments:
    • Kate Burke – I just wanted to follow up and ask Peter a follow-up question about homeschooling options that would allow us to keep our kids in the district. I sent an email about it.  I know a lot of parents have been talking to you about that.  I am just wondering if there is a way for us to do that without hurting the school district in future years and if there is any thought in what you are thinking.  Dillon – Kate, it is a really good question.  What is hard about this is the language we use around this has to be really precise but what people hear when they hear homeschooling or something else is often different.  Let me try to run through a couple different scenarios with very precise language, or as precise as I can create on the spot.  If somebody decides to homeschool, they are formally removing their children from the district and if you live in one of the three member towns, you are just doing that.  You are writing the principal and me a plan for how you are going to homeschool your child and we approve that.  This gets a little confusing; if you are a choiced-in student and you choose to homeschool your child, then effectively you are withdrawing them from the district and if at some future point you want to come back, you have to apply again through the choice process and your readmission is not guaranteed.  You go back in the lottery.  So, there are two different things around homeschooling.  The other issue around homeschooling is the financial one.  If a student is homeschooled, I think this is what you were getting at, then they don’t count in the district’s enrollment which connects to state funding.  If somebody wants to homeschool their kid, they can choose to do that but the consequence for the district is the district gets a little less funding.  Short of homeschooling but sort of similar but it doesn’t fall into that  would be for a parent to opt for fully remote learning.  Their learning would be provided entirely online for the year.  Within that they can also do some supplemental work.  The advantage of that whether they are an in-district student or a choice student, if they stay within the district, and in either case the district doesn’t lose the funding connected to the child and in the choice student case if the choice student then wants to come back next year, they are still a student so the come back.  Hopefully that gets to what you are asking about.  The continuation of it is, if we are in a hybrid model, the student could be part time face-to-face and part time remote and if we get to a point where we can all be back face-to-face, then they would be with their class.  K. Burke – it isn’t the answer I want, but it answers my question.  I am worried about state funding and I know a lot of parents are having that conversation.  P. Dillon – it is super complicated.  I can talk to you about it more.  If a large number of parents chose to homeschool, it would have a dramatic impact on us.  At the same time, people need to do what is right for their own children.
    • Karen Grossman – Kate, thank you so much for the plan you put together. I wanted to ask about the timeline.  It sounds like the timeline for next week and possibly a vote but you also mentioned negotiations, particularly the category 1 kids, if there is a possibility that this idea of in-person learning does not go through and there is a possibility even then the category 1 kids would be based with distance learning, then it is figuring out what in the world do we do individually as a household.  I just want to understand the timeline of when the final decision will be made and a little bit of the likelihood that your proposal would be rejected through negotiations.  Dillon – I know everybody wants really concrete answers in this time and I know the uncertainty is driving us all crazy.  I can’t speak to the likelihood and I don’t think it is a matter of if it gets approved; I think it is more when it gets approved.  It is clear we need to meet the needs of our highest needs students and I think what we need to do is agree to conditions that folks feel are safe to do that.  I can’t say it is going to be a week, two or three weeks but it is one of our highest priorities in negotiations so I hope that we get to a good place soon.  We now have these meetings every Thursday forever so stay tuned every Thursday.  We will give you an update.
    • Amy Molloy, 170 Christian Hill Road, Great Barrington – I just want to thank you all for this tremendous amount of work that this is. I am kind of piggybacking on Kate Burke’s question about homeschooling.  Our kids are little, 1st and 3rd grades and there are parents who are starting to talk about podding together and trying to pull some resources to hire a teacher who can allow us to stay enrolled in Muddy Brook and follow the curriculum and meet the goals so we can stay part of the school and progress.  Rather than having them be on a screen all day, they would be working with some sort of adult who is going to help them learn without the screen.  I am wondering how much flexibility you are going to allow for that.  That might mean that they don’t attend every meeting or they are not turning in all the school work when it is due.  Is there a way to show that we are committed to the work, doing the work and making progress that doesn’t tie us to the computer.  My 1st grader will learn nothing if she has to be on the computer all day.  Will you allow flexibility for that without having us withdraw and qualify as a homeschool?  Dillon – it would be my inclination to do that.  You might have to formally ask the school permission or the school committee permission to do that.  I imagine they would support it because it meets the needs of kids and it is good for the district.  I think we can figure out a way to make that work.  I want to do a little research but I am optimistic about that.  A. Molloy –  a lot of the parents we are talking to, about 12 of us at this point, we really would love to stay enrolled but would appreciate that flexibility.  Thank you.  P. Dillon – Steve, is that a fair statement?  S. Bannon – I think it is a fair statement.  It is a school committee decision but the school committee has been very flexible so far.
    • Arielle Pink – 25 Hart Street, Housatonic – I was wondering what the district is doing to help parents to help meet each others’ needs. I feel like there are a lot of issues here that are raised by parents and I think there are things we could provide for each other but we don’t have access to that information.  It would be great if we could use the school as an intermediary to connect to each other.  There are a lot of people who can’t hire a teacher but may be able to provide support to other kids and people who need support can get support from other parents.  Are we working on something to connect people together to have their needs met?  Dillon – at this moment we are not explicitly working on that so we have a long history and tradition of parents supporting parents in every building.  It started at Muddy Brook with the PTA and then at Monument Valley with the parent mentoring and continues in the high school in other ways that are often more specific to activities.  If you have some ideas about how the district can help facilitate it and we can get it going then it can be parent driven, I would be really happy to do that.  It is a time now when we are so busy with so many things, I don’t want to take on full responsibility for another endeavor but I am happy to connect you or some parents and point you in a good direction.
    • Bannon – there is a parent group chat through Project Connection and that may continue. P. Dillon – maybe what we do, and Project Connection has been a program that creates models for us, so maybe we build on the links of that parent chat and expand it to the district. It is hard to think, does it make more sense to do it building by building or in this case, community by community but maybe both ways.  We will do some work on that.
  • School Committee Discussion & Potential Vote – R. Dohoney – I think it is an issue we need to flush out more clearly tonight, how are we interpreting and what is our relationship with the guidelines that went out two days ago. We had three meetings discussing re-opening; two of them ended in votes.  Every stage along the line, we were looking forward to these guidelines and I know the negotiation components are a big part of it.  I will leave it there and maybe Peter and others can give their thoughts.  Are we following them or are we not?  Bannon – I think it is time that we piggyback on the guidelines as soon as we can.  We said remote but as soon as those three weeks are up or if it is less, it is less, we follow the state guidelines.  I realize there are negotiations involved but we may choose to do hybrid and have to get some sort of a waiver.  I think the sooner we go, the better because we all know that as it gets into winter, there are some predictions that the numbers could get worse and we could be back to remote.  The more in-person we can do, the better it is.  That’s how I feel about that.  I would love to see the district do and I don’t know if we have the personnel, I’m not so worried about the money because the kids are too important to worry about the money, as I would love to see us get the parents together.  I don’t want to see parents have to hire teachers to teach their kids to stay in our district.  I think that is our responsibility.  I am not an educator and I don’t have any great method but I really feel strongly that we need to meet the needs of every child in our district the best we can.  To have certain parents that are able to and certain parents who can’t, seems really unfair to me.  I think that is the direction we need to go in the next few weeks.  I think Kate’s idea tonight was really a step in the right direction and I would love to vote on it next Thursday.  If it takes a lot of negotiations, it takes a lot of negotiations.  I think we owe it to the parents to know what our plans are.  That is just my opinion.  S. Stephen – I would love to follow the guidelines but the guidelines change every two days.  That is where everybody is finding difficulty is when everything changes constantly, it is really tough to make a plan.  R. Dohoney – they are going to update these guidelines every Wednesday going forward.  The recommendation for the guidelines is everybody deals with a three week rolling average.  There is some stability in it.  S. Bannon – Peter, someone asked if you could review the guidelines.  I don’t want you to take an hour doing them but if you want to give a brief synopsis of what the guidelines are, people who haven’t read them will know.  P. Dillon – they were in the local media and I’ll get them on our website maybe not tomorrow but Monday.  The commissioner and the department of public health and the governor have come up with a set of guidelines and then there is a color-coded system.  There are 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts and everyone of those is on a map.  I think there are four colors: white, green, yellow and red.  Right now in Berkshire County, I think only Pittsfield is green and everybody else is white.  That is where things are.  Then there is guidance that you can do if you are white colored on the map, you can do face-to-face or hybrid in particular circumstances; then as you go up, it’s hybrid or remote and then if you get the highest level it is fully remote.  Those are out there.  They are on DESE’s website.  It was all over the news but I will get it up on our website so people can look at it.  When it hit the news, most of the letters I got were related to that.  Thank you, Andy, it is hard for me to talk and post things at the same time.  He just shared the guidance in the chat.  If you are in the chat you can click on it.  B. Fields – I would like to say things are in flux.  I would love to see kids back; being a former teacher that is the best way but things are changing so quickly between last week and this week.  We already had changes in the state in regards to Boston.  We have had changes in Pittsfield so I think we have to be prudent in regards to….I know there are a lot of parents that want the face-to-face and want kids back in school but I really think we should be very careful that we don’t rush this. I have always felt we should be phasing in the hybrid.  To suddenly change and go to either all in person or even a hybrid at this time, I believe is premature and would put us in a position that later on down the line, in October, flu season, we are going to get an idea of the students who are coming into Berkshire County have affected the rate and the visitors…I drove to Pittsfield yesterday and I was behind a car from West Virginia; coming back I was behind a car from Rhode Island.  A car passed me from Georgia.  I won’t cause disbursions on any of those three fine states but I wonder if they filled out forms and quarantined for 14 days.  I really think, and I have gotten messages here from parents, and I understand completely, what the issues are in regards to your need to have kids back in school.  I agree with you but I think we would be premature if we go back on what we voted last week in regards to this issue.  I think we need to be very careful we don’t rush anything.  This virus is so fluid and as Dr. Fauci says, it’s the virus that is going to tell us what to do.  R. Dohoney – There is some tenor going on that somehow our compliance with these guidelines is 100% optional or there is a mandate.  I don’t know what the answer is.  To be clear to everyone, if we were to follow these today, we are not talking about a hybrid model, we are talking about in person learning, 100%.  We are in the safest category.  I agree with what Bill said and others have said.  Everything needs to be on the table.  Everything is fluid.  I am comfortable with that.  If we are to go with a hybrid model, that is a deviation from the guidelines.  Reading directly from the state’s mandate, “it is our expectation that district learning models will follow the color coded metrics unless there are extenuating circumstances identified with consultation with local boards of health.”  My only suggestion is if we are going to proceed down this road of fluidity and keep things open and not follow the guidelines, then I think Peter or somebody else has to engage with the three local boards of health to see if we can identify extenuating circumstances that will allow us to do that.  S. Bannon – I think it would behoove us to come up with a plan that occurs after the first three weeks and at some point we have to follow the guidelines.  It would give parents some stability to know what our plans are.  To my ideas, after the three weeks of remote learning, we are going to follow the guidelines and I realize it is subject to negotiations but it is also subject to state regulations.  To me that would give some stability to where we are going.  Bill, there is some fluidity but there is going to be fluidity until this pandemic goes away because it all depends on the numbers.  The more days we can get students with  1:1 learning, the better it is, in my mind.  D. Singer – there are a couple of things.  I have done some reading in the Academy of Pediatrics and what they are recommending.  Looking at the numbers in our county,  I’m worried that kids are suffering more from not being in school, than from exposure to a virus in a county where the numbers are very low presently.  I would be very comfortable moving toward a hybrid and then a full attendance model but one in which we can control very clearly, much as we do at my office.  I was very scared to go back to work at a time when the virus was still high in the county.  I think that I would be most comfortable with trying to move toward something in which we can keep the kids safe but also very clearly move toward having them in school.  A. Hutchinson – I agree with Diane; we want to be moving quickly to get schools open now while our numbers are really low and establish that base because kids may not be in for very long or maybe not.  Now that the metrics are out from the state, we can work clearly with the low numbers.  We need to make sure that parents know if they are out of the state or travelled somewhere else, they need to quarantine for two week.  We need very clear guidelines for parents and teachers or anyone who is in the school building.  That is how we keep our children and our staff safe and try to use the time now.  We are now clear so use this time to get things done in person.  D. Singer – I have one thing to add.  I don’t think that as far as staff goes, that everybody should be…I would never require staff to come back if they have any compelling reason to not want to come back.  I would never want a child or parent not feel comfortable sending their children to want to come back.  I think part of our guidelines, we would definitely take into account that staff couldn’t work or wouldn’t feel comfortable coming back for medical reasons or the inability to wear a mask or follow guidelines.  J. St. Peter – I know we had our vote last week, but with my five years on the committee, this is the most important decision we have to make going forward.  I also want to let you know that in the last week, I have gotten more correspondence from parents than I have combined in the rest of my five years on the committee.  Every single one of them basically saying that they are against going to a full remote model to start.  A couple of topics that they brought up that I fully agree with is that the risks of remote learning cannot be dismissed equally as well as the risks going back to school.  To follow up on Diane, I also have been looking at the American Academy of Pediatrics position on this and they wrote that remote learning will severely impact and increase learning loss.  It will increase social isolation, it will increase child’s and adolescent’s physical and sexual abuse especially through decreased reporting, increased substance abuse and depression as well as suicide.  This is directly from their statement.  The impacts will be more severely felt on black and brown children, on the lower income children and on the learning disabled.  Unfortunately, we have a choice but there is going to be severe negative ramifications possibly on either side.  This is how I feel and this is how the parents that contacted me feel.  With the such low numbers we have, the parents in this community, the majority of them feel the very real risks of social/emotional health by going back remotely far outweigh the risks of having distance learning.  We did send out a survey; Peter shared and 160 students responded.  One of the responses was, if the public health office believes it is safe to allow in person instruction, 85% of the respondents felt comfortable with that.  #2, do you plan on your child returning to school no matter the restrictions, mask wearing, staying in the classroom, etc.  Only 11% said no.  That tells me that the vast majority of parents feel the damage done by not going is greater than the risk of going.  I know, two weeks ago, it was presented that a hybrid model was going to be introduced.  Then we had a week of public forums.  People thought that the hybrid model was going to be the one choice understandable they didn’t feel the need to speak during those forums so you had a vocal minority of parents who felt that the hybrid or full in school model was in; so the majority of parents didn’t speak.  Last week, I got a lot of feedback and I am sure the rest of the committee has as well.  B. Donovan – I just think that if go back or not, I am not sure the parents realize that when there is a child with a runny nose or cough….there are so many rules that go along with going back to school and the nurses really want something to come out of the central office or from the school committee stating that if the school nurse calls, they need to be there and they need to go home with symptoms, they need to quarantine their child for 14 days or have a covid test, that is from the CDC and the state.  There are an awful lot of rules, but I am not sure everyone is aware of.  They are pretty important.  Parents are going to have to be available.  I don’t want people to think, we are going to go back to a normal day once school starts again.  It is not really going to be like that.  I think it is important to go back but….S. Bannon – thank you Becki.  It was helpful to hear you say that.  D. Astion – I am co-president of the BHEA.  On behalf of teachers, secretaries and paraprofessionals of the regional school district, we thank you for your support in these unprecedented times.  As the BHEA said before, the safety of all of our students, staff and family members, is our main concern.  This has not changed.  Teachers of the district are aware of this immense challenge and the obligations we have on educating the children and young people in our community.  We take these responsibilities very seriously and have begun preparing for the task of remote learning.  Our negotiations with Superintendent Dillon and the school committee members are collaborative and respectful.  This relationship is something we take pride in.  We all have the same goal; to educate our children in the safest way that we can.  During a crisis that has affected every person on earth, to the members of the school committee, you have accepted the need to start the school year…..(connection lost).  We ask you to remember that we are community members too.  We live here, we worship here, our children grow and learn together here.  We want the same things that you all want; a safe, healthy place in which all of our children can learn, play and grow.  Thank you.  A. Potter – in that light, I would definitely want to say, it shouldn’t be an us/them.  We are all in this together.  Going back to Jason’s comments, because I wanted to respond…I am very wary of the situation until I start hearing anecdotal descriptions of how people feel, how things might have gone, etc.  I have had a number of people contact me and I have had discussions with people in the community.  It has certainly not been unanimous in any one direction or another.  I have had quite a few parents with students in the district who are honestly thinking along the same lines we heard earlier of homeschooling or being comfortable in 100% remote.  Circumstances differ across households in our district, however I do think, and correct me if I am wrong Peter, the original plan we had two weeks ago had four cohorts or four approaches.  One of those was 100% remote learning.  And that cohort exists, correct?  P. Dillon – it will.  It is an option.  Then the three other cohorts are the high needs cohort that gives more face to face time; what Kate was describing tonight.  In the hybrid model the group that gets almost entirely face to face time and the two other cohorts are the remainder of the kids split in two.  A. Potter – There is a range of options here.  I will admit, I didn’t like what I saw from the state.  I didn’t like the language of expectation.  That offended me frankly.  When it is convenient, the state likes to say, the districts should have autonomy and make their own decisions then when push comes to shove, they are throwing words like expectation at us.  It is difficult but I think we shouldn’t be pitting teachers against parents or parents against the school committee.  This is all something we need to work through and also need to pay attention to what is going on.  It isn’t over.  B. Fields – I have been getting some messages during this meeting from some teachers in the district, one who states that there are teachers on the staff and staff members who come from Pittsfield and Pittsfield has just been relegated to green.  This is about the technology involved with the learning platform called Canvas and Andy, you are on the technology committee. I don’t understand anything about it but I am just going to summarize what the two messages I got say.  They don’t have access to an actual account with the new Canvas learning platform.  They are using a free trial but don’t have access to anything that we can roll over once we actually get an account.  Some of these teachers have lost everything that they created through the trial.  Another one says, we don’t want to be thrown under the bus if we don’t have everything up and running at the onset of the year.  I guess the question is, I don’t know of the technology but it seems that some of the faculty are having difficulty with this account on Canvas.  Looking at hybrid or a total remote, I think we are going to have to deal with this.  Peter, I don’t know anything about it but I am just bringing it up so it is another thing you can look into.  What is the problem that some of these teachers are having about having an actual account.  P. Dillon – it is a known issue.  We have 11 days at the start of school where we are going to train people on Canvas.  We hope their accounts are live sooner than that.  It took awhile for the high school to roll over their schedule and we are having some issues on the other side with Canvas. The whole country is moving to this at the same time.  We started work on this, on the remote learning piece, in May and June and districts 100 times bigger than us are facing the same challenges we are facing.  There are so many providers, so many things to move, it takes awhile for accounts to get going and I feel bad that some people are having a frustrating experience.  Other people have built out whole sites and are in quite good shape.  Let’s see where we are on September 4 and September 11th because those are the benchmarks.  We set that internally and we want it to be up and running and we also want to be patient and realistic.  R. Dohoney – can I make a procedural suggestion?  My thought is there are still, and we know alot more this week than we did last week, I think the teachers have been very engaged and thoughtful and I appreciate that.  They need to be heard, not just in this forum but in the negotiation process.  My suggestion would be that when we meet next Thursday, that agenda includes an executive session and a vote on the reopening plan.  S. Bannon – I think that makes perfectly good sense.  We will do that.  S. Stephen – so are we going to revote on the reopening plan yet again?  S. Bannon – when we get new information there is no reason we can’t.  S. Stephen – that is kind of my point.  It is a very fluid situation.  S. Bannon – we will start at 5:30 with an executive session next week with a different Zoom link and we will go once the executive session is over, we will go to an open meeting; I’m not guaranteeing we will take another vote but we may do that and this may give parents some hope that they will have a better idea what we are going to do starting September 14th.  I would hope that negotiations go quickly and go well because I agree with Donna, we always work well together and we should continue to work together.  I am not planning to negotiate in public but I don’t see why the administration, school committee and the teachers and paraprofessionals can’t come to a conclusion rather quickly for the best needs of the students and staff and community.  P. Dillon – I think it is highly likely that we will reach conclusions on some big time sensitive issues and some of the nuance stuff we may be talking about for weeks.  B. Fields – one more point, I would like to bring up, that came up in an email to me is there a plan for substitutes?  For example if 20% of the staff is out, how are we going to deal with substitutes.  That is one point and the second one is, if we chose to go all remote to begin with, there are some teachers that would be out at their home.  They could be sick or whatever reason; they could not be there so have we looked at getting substitutes trained on the Canvas platform?  I think it is another thing that has to be looked at along with many other things we haven’t even thought of yet.  That was brought to my attention that maybe the substitutes need to be trained on Canvas also.  P. Dillon – thanks Bill.  That is a good point.  It is on the list already.  The more likely scenario would be that all the (lost sound) so in the event a teacher was sick at home, we would likely lean on a paraprofessional to do that and they have an existing relationship with the students and with the teacher so that sets us up well.  I think on the broader side, if we do go to a hybrid model, at some point, we will have issues with substitutes as many substitutes are of your generation and they are reluctant to come into school so we are going to have some struggles there this year.  R. Dohoney – I just want to make one comment and I am not looking to spark a discussion of any kind but to echo conversations I have had with school committee members and Peter, there is no decision on sports; that is not made by the school committee; that will be made by the administration and when it is made, you will hear about it.  B. Fields – you are aware, they came out with guidelines today about that.  R. Dohoney – they are opening sports, I know.  B. Fields – they put them in different categories, levels 1, 2 and 3 and one of your favorites Rich is #3.  The rules look like you are going to have a flag instead of blocking and tackling.  R. Dohoney – you are right about that.  P. Dillon – there is also an assumption…I might make a recommendation or ask you to vote on something at a future meeting but there is also an assumption, it is very confusing in Massachusetts, because I barely understand it 11 years in, the MIAA has a lot of autonomy but at the end of the day DESE is going to weigh in on the guidance they got today and make a recommendation.  If DESE makes a ruling on it, we obviously follow their ruling.  If they go back to their local control, you decide what you want to do, then we will present you with a range of possibilities and the pros and cons and you can make an informed decision.

MOTION TO ADJOURN – A. POTTER                SECONDED:  S. STEPHEN                        ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

Meeting Adjourned at 7:05pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder                                               ______________________________

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

 

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School Committee Secretary