BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Great Barrington Stockbridge West Stockbridge
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Teleconference Meeting via Zoom
December 17, 2020 – 6:00pm
School Committee: S. Bannon, J. St. Peter, A. Hutchinson, C. Sprague, R. Dohoney, B. Fields, D. Singer, S. Stephen, B. Bonn-Buffoni, M. Thomas
Administration: P. Dillon, S. Harrison
Staff/Public: T. Lee, K. Farina, B. Doren, S. Soule, Z. Holmes (student member), J. Beadell (student member)
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, 30 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.
- Superintendent’s Report: Dillon – Custodians and maintenance staff did a wonderful job cleaning up the campus. We got a ton of snow. The good news is it is pretty light and fluffy so it isn’t terrible to move around. I want to thank them for doing that. Staff and students have been working really hard, mostly remotely now, with the exception of two groups in Cohort A. We will see where we land going into the new year. People are working really hard. I got to drop in on some virtual meetings and it is exciting.
- Good News Item(s)
- Proposed Vote to Formally Recognize Berkshire Waldorf High School – P. Dillon – The Berkshire Waldorf School which is in Stockbridge would like to participate in athletics through the MIAA. While at some point we must have recognized them we can’t find records of that recognition so I would like to read something from them and have the school committee take a vote on it. Farina – Berkshire Waldorf High School is separate from the school now named Berkshire Waldorf School formerly Great Barrington Rural Stein School. S. Bannon – I have no problem with this. Previously, we used to send a team of people in there to make sure their curriculum and everything met the law even though there is no reason we have to do that but you are comfortable doing this. P. Dillon – yes, I’m comfortable. I have been over there. I know a lot of the people there. They are doing high quality work and are a comparable institution. They are under our umbrella but we are not compensated or afforded in anyway. I am perfectly comfortable. MOTION TO VERIFY BERKSHIRE WALDORF HIGH SCHOOL HAS BEEN APPROVED OF MEETING THE REQUIREMENTS SPECIFIED IN CHAPTER 76, SECTION 1 OF THE GENERAL LAWS – B. FIELDS SECONDED: A. HUTCHINSON ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- COVID-19 – P. Dillon – We are watching the numbers very carefully. The trend is coming down a little bit. I hope people continue to be really mindful, handwashing, social distancing, masks, limiting unnecessary travel and limiting gathering even relatively small family gatherings which may be the nexus of a spread of this thing. We got our waiver from the state to be a lab which lets us do the rapid testing and we expect to have those tests shipped to us tomorrow or Monday. We will be in a position to start doing the rapid testing in our three schools and in Richmond. I have a joint health and safety committee. We typically meet once a week. Steve and Anne are on it and a number of teachers from each of the buildings. We will check in and continue to see where the numbers are. Since our last meeting I shared that we are remote for awhile with a hope that if the numbers stay where they are, we might come by on Tuesday, January 19th which is the day after Martin Luther King Day. That is an important date because that might come up in our next discussion on athletics.
- Athletics – P. Dillon – The two things really in play are skiing and basketball. Skiing we feel comfortable with starting, and we solved all the issues that Sean and a few other people brought up at the last meeting. They are in a position to practice. They can do that outside and I think we are in good shape there. Skiing has the green light. The next one is basketball. With our remote posture, we are delayed a bit in when we can start. It doesn’t seem to be common sense to not have kids in school but allowing practice. Karl shared a memo that was in the packet. The implication of that would be that if we return in some sort of hybrid model potentially on the 19th of January, then that is when we would be able to start practice. Zigmund – we started skiing this week and we have about 30 students on the team. It is going well and there are no issues at the moment. It is off to a good start. R. Dohoney – so where is the county at with scheduling for basketball games? K. Zigmund – the ADs in Berkshire County met on Wednesday and they are going to get started a little bit earlier with some games. Mt. Greylock, Wahconah and Hoosic Valley have started practices and they hope to start some games in late January. We can’t join them until we get our ten practices. If we go hybrid on the 19th, then we would probably start playing games the 1st of February or around there. We hope to have ten games running through March 5th. S. Stephen – for skiing, how many schools are participating? K. Zigmund – at the moment, it is us and Wahconah and Pittsfield. Pittsfield is in a similar boat. They aren’t going to start skiing until they go hybrid on the 19th of January. They are going to be added to the schedule later. Lenox is reporting back that although they are not going to go forward with basketball, they are going to try alpine. They hope to be added later in the schedule. S. Stephen – how many schools are signed up and ready to go with basketball? K. Zigmund – Greylock, Hoosac and Wahconah; Mt. Everett has been approved to start in early January. With our January 19th hopeful start, we wouldn’t be able to play games until early February. So, there are four schools starting in January and we hope to join them along with Pittsfield and Drury in February. S. Stephen – I am just curious how many have signed on. K. Zigmund – signed on to play games? S. Stephen – yes. K. Zigmund – there are some that have signed on to play games starting in January and then there are some that are hoping to play in February. There are two different start dates. Some have started now and some are waiting to start that is why there are two different start dates for the games. C. Sprague – I’m sure it was not an easy decision to arrive at. Can you go into your thought process and why you are coming out on the side that basketball is fairly high contact and indoors is a safe sport to proceed with. K. Zigmund – we have done some research. Peter and Kristi have done some research as well. The physicians that I have talked to said it is okay to start with basketball even though it is an indoor sport. Peter has talked to people as well. Personally, I would start right now based on what I see. There are a lot of schools that have started out in the eastern part of the state and they have been practicing for awhile. P. Dillon – I have real mixed feelings about it. What I want to be clear about is in my mind the soonest time to start would be on the 19th. Skiing is entirely different. It is outside and I’m completely comfortable with it. Basketball is inside and I don’t think it makes any sense to start while we are remote. On the other hand, I totally see the value of athletics and the opportunity for kids to participate and engage in it. I think we are in this wait and see thing which I know is really hard on coaches, athletes and families. The soonest time I can see us starting is the 19th. Depending on what is happening with the virus, we may say things are good and we are comfortable starting or if we get to the 19th and we stay remote, then the decision is probably made for itself. If we start and we see greater community spread or spread within a particular activity or cohort of kids, then we would make a dramatic shift. K. Zigmund – I would add that we are also going to have an opportunity to watch Wahconah and Greylock and see how things go. They are following all the modifications to the rules and we are going to have a good month to watch and see how they do. K. Farina – both of you touched on what I was thinking. Certainly the modifications are something Karl and I talked quite substantially about. I know when I met with the Berkshire County principals, we were all in agreement even though the MIAA guidelines were suggesting we have fans, we discussed not having any fans. At the same time, I was pretty clear in my discussion with Karl that the priority for me was having students in school. If we get to a point where we get kids back to school but it seems basketball would increase the risk of having to go back into remote school, I think the top priority has to be having kids in school. The start date of the 19th gives us more time to see what happens in the other schools and where we are at in terms of the virus and the spread in the community after the holidays. P. Dillon – in my mind, it is not a given that we are starting on the 19th. That is my hope but it is contingent on where we are with numbers in the county. All that I have said is that through the 15th or the weekend going into the 19th, we are largely going to be in a remote approach. The 19th is the earliest possible day. J. St. Peter – is skiing a fully school sponsored like it was last year or the year before? K. Zigmund – that is correct. J. St. Peter – is the school providing transportation to and from practices or is that all incumbent on the families to do that? P. Dillon – it is on the families. It has always been that way because of the times getting to the mountains. Ten years or so ago we ran buses and regularly no one would take the bus or they lived closer to the mountain then to school so historically it has been dependent on families. When kids are older they drive themselves. S. Stephen – so there won’t be any buses for races? When they went to races, they rode on a bus. K. Zigmund – this is my third year here. We have never provided buses even to a race. The other thing that is coming up this year is there are additional races that I think a fair amount of our skiers are going to take part in. We are going to have club races so we are going to have different times where people are going to be leaving as well. A bus would be inconvenient. J. St. Peter – I would like to add if it is incumbent on the families to bring them then obviously there might be a case of carpooling if a certain family can’t go. I would appreciate it Karl if you could reach out to the ski coaches to make sure if there are cases where it is not just the family in the car, obviously they wear masks and try to keep the windows open because obviously it will be less than six feet. Please stress that during these COVID times, I would appreciate it. K. Zigmund – of course, I will follow up with the coach. J. St. Peter – I watched the Pittsfield School regarding athletics. What they voted on was once they go back, they are going to have a five day period where they are not going to play sports just to make sure everything is going ok. I am not sure how that is going to affect the schedule at all. Just a point of interest. Their gym is being used for academic purposes to maximise classes and I heard they are going to be playing at the boys’ club, practicing and playing. I just want to make sure our gym is going to be free. I am assuming it is but I just want to make sure if it isn’t, a space is made for the teams. K. Farina – the space right now, a chunk of the gymnasium is being used for storage. Some of that could potentially stay against the wall where it is if we are not going to have fans. If there is too much, that can be moved to the north end of the cafeteria. We are using the cafeteria now with desks for lunch with our cohort A group so there is a space there and we have one classroom that is not being used that we could store some more items if we need to. Yes, we will be using the gym for basketball. J. St. Peter – my last question is, we are not having fans; is that correct? K. Zigmund – that is correct. J. St. Peter – how about the other schools? If this does go forward and we start playing away games, are our students going to be in a place where they are going to have 40-50% of fans. Has there been a vote taken as far as that? K. Zigmund – there has not been a league-wide vote to agree on that. I know most schools said they are not going to have fans. K. Farina – I would just echo that at our county principals’ meeting, the principals were all in agreement that we were not going to have fans. It wasn’t a formal vote but we met and that was the agreement. S. Stephen – does that include family? K. Zigmund – that’s right. K. Farina – yes. S. Bannon – just to formalize this…I really think that we should be very clear that if we are not having fans that we won’t go to any away games that do have fans. If having fans there causes added danger, we shouldn’t be hypocritical and go to away games where there might be 50 people in attendance. K. Zigmund – I don’t think that is going to be possible. It isn’t going to be an option. P. Dillon – do you want to talk a bit about your hopes Karl for trying to broadcast things if we actually get to playing games. K. Zigmund – we are set up to live stream and we can do it on demand if you aren’t around during the game. We used that last year and it was really popular. We will do that again. I know Jack Passetto is interested in broadcasting on WSBS. We don’t have excluding rights to him. He does various games around the county but that is an option. J. St. Peter – Karl, you said that March 5th would be the latest date they could play. I thought the Fall 2 starting February 23rd or did I get that wrong? K. Zigmund – that has been adjusted a little bit so it is going to be a later start. Everything has been pushed back a little bit. There will be a slight overlap into spring. The expectation is you could finish fall 2 and be eligible to play in the spring then spring will run later than normal up until July. B. Bonn-Buffoni – does anybody know…I know as a school we didn’t officially have soccer but I know the majority of the players went into a travel league and played; contact wise, do we know if any of those players in that league, if there was any transmission of COVID? I know through baseball, I did the Babe Ruth, Little League and we were very successful in not having any. I am just wondering about soccer because it is much more of a contact sport. R. Dohoney – in the Berkshire County league that there was none. More importantly, Berkshire County was the only place that didn’t have MIAA soccer. The rest of the state did and there was not one incident of transmission through a high school soccer game in Massachusetts during the whole season as tracked by the MIAA. B. Bonn-Buffoni – I know there is a lot of physical contact but one is outside and one is inside but people are bumping and crashing into each other…S. Stephen – I will tell you also for the private club leagues in soccer, there was not as far as reporting goes, there was never any transmission. There were facilities that were shut down to prevent any spread and games cancelled. It seemed like everybody was very ahead of the game. B. Bonn-Buffoni – that is good news. Just looking ahead that basketball is inside with the kids being so close to each other knowing that soccer was successful. C. Sprague – rules did change though. There were no headers or throw-ins to remove any touching of the ball and to my understanding while I don’t think it happened inside, there was an outbreak on one of the Pittsfield teams that had come through one of the club teams. It got shut down right away and games were cancelled. There was a lot of communication happening. B. Fields – for people who want to stream the games, can you give the address where people can stream that. K. Zigmund – I will have it on the website. It is easy to connect to. D. Singer – I just wonder if some of these smaller teams for basketball would be considered a family group in some cases. I understand that it is important to be in school but maybe the fact that these players are not in school keeps them away from the rest of the population and through testing and keeping them in a gym maybe with masks on to practice or testing them prior or at certain intervals with a rapid test, that might make it safer for them to practice. If Karl wanted to reevaluate at some point of school never went back to being not remote; so a season is not lost for the players. P. Dillon – I think that is an interesting idea. As Kristi, Karl and I have talked about this, we really tried to prioritize the academic side and kids are students first and athletes second. I am a little reluctant to do it but if you want to talk more offline with us, we are happy to have that conversation some more. D. Singer – ok, or even to have the possibility open if in January things are not opening that maybe it could be reevaluated in some way just for practice not for games.
- High Needs Students – P. Dillon – as we are now in this remote posture, and early at the start of the year when we started remotely and started bringing kids back, we’ve done some work with students that alternately describe as Cohort A, our high needs, there was some confusion on that in the community and maybe in with the school committee. I just wanted to clarify that a little bit. The thinking is some subset of our students have a much harder time accessing their education if it is remote so we are trying to build a way to support some subset face-to-face even when most of the rest of the district is remote. Typically that would include some students with particular needs identified in the IEPs; perhaps some English Language Learners and perhaps our PK students. I just wanted to flag that because as we go forward we will be talking more about it and trying to figure out the right balance of which group of kids we may continue to support in person as long as we feel we can do that safely vs the bulk or large majority of kids. At some point we get everybody back whether it is in a full face-to-face or some sort of hybrid approach. Burdsall – It is largely the same information I shared in August at the meeting we had. The guidance we are getting from DESE hasn’t changed since the summer. DESE wants to see our high needs students, student with disabilities, our ELLs, our PK kids, they want to see them in school for in-person learning as much as possible so we have continued to focus on those groups in each of the three buildings with a little bit of expansion to include other students were we see some significant needs. That is what we have been doing. Nothing really has changed. The kids we are targeting are the kids we identified early on with a handful of others. P. Dillon – to put it into context, it is like five or six kids in each grade.
- Proposed Vote: District Bus Contract – P. Dillon – we shared it in the packet and it is a proposed contract. There is a memo outlining it. What Sharon did in working with our attorneys and also Southern Berkshire because it is a joint contract, they went through a whole bunch of things and if you read it carefully there all off these different tiers. The big one is the first ten days of the year, when we had those ten days for professional development, we are proposing to reduce the rate to 45% because they were standing ready to provide us with service but they weren’t providing us service. There is a discounted rate on remote days because they are ready to do stuff but not. The in-person days would be paid at the full rate. The other thing is athletics and other activities are only going to be paid if it is scheduled and run by Massini. A number of sports aren’t happening that would have done travel and there will be no cost there. Dohoney – if we end up building out this school year or playing with the calendar in the spring, is this just the rate structure and we can change the days or are we locked into this number of days? S. Harrison – our contract is for 180 days. Typically if we add anything, we just do it on a per diem basis. R. Dohoney – and they stand ready if need be? S. Harrison – yes as long as we give them enough notice so we make sure the drivers are available. MOTION TO APPROVE THE REVISED DISTRICT BUS CONTRACT WITH MASSINI BUS – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: M. THOMAS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- High School Update: Extraordinary Maintenance – P. Dillon – at our last meeting we talked about some of the extraordinary maintenance they want to do and part of it initially was characterized as replacing lockers. If you read Kristi’s memo on this, it is much more than that. I thought it made sense for Kristi and Steve to talk a little about the genesis of their thinking and why the collecting want to invest in this. Farina – I apologize that I was not at the last meeting. I would have spoken to this then. When Steve and Jason asked me to sit down with the building and grounds committee and I met with Steve and we were talking about priorities for the building, for me one of the very first things that came to mind was the hallways. I know we often hear people talk about how dark the hallways are in the building and the climate that it creates for students. The students themselves have done a survey two years ago and found that very few students use the lockers and the thinking is if very few students use lockers why would be want to replace them but if the reason they are not using the lockers is because of the configuration of the lockers and where they are located in the building, so I think if you are in the building and see the students walking around with the very heavy backpacks that they have, they might actually appreciate having a space that is theirs where they can put things. Right before the school closure last year, I had met with our YATS team. For those of you that don’t know that stands for Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together. They were preparing to actually lead a faculty meeting in March where we were going to do a ghost walk through the school. Students were going to lead teachers around the building to have teachers really look and talk about what the space feels like for them. The teachers never had an opportunity to do that because school closed before that faculty meeting happened. The students did that with me and it is really fascinating to walk around the building and listen to the students describe the hallway space from their perception. It isn’t just the dark space but it is also what we could potentially use space for. When Steve and I sat down and talked about the lockers, newer lockers are configured in a much different way. They are stacked on top of one another and would take up much less space in the hallways which would actually make the hallways a little wider and would also allow us to think about using space in the hallways for things like an area where student could study which both the elementary and the middle school have in their hallways because of the way classrooms are grouped. The high school does not have that. In my opinion this is something that would really shift the climate of the building and it would be a very positive impact. It is obviously not something we can do in one year and the proposal you have received is a phased-in approach to that. The thinking is we would replace a certain number of lockers and we would likely do a lottery for the new lockers and that would actually give us a sense of how many lockers we would need so that we wouldn’t necessarily have to purchase lockers for every student if in fact no all students really want to use lockers but if they do, then over time we could replace them all and have enough for our students. R. Dohoney – why are we phasing? Why not just do it? S. Soule – it would be a big price ticket to do all of them in one year. I had a guy here a year or two ago and I have been in communication with him. It is a local company out of Pittsfield. I emailed back and forth with him today. He said he would get me the pretty firm numbers by the end of the week so I should have them tomorrow. J. St. Peter – roughly to do all of them would be north of $5-6,000? S. Soule – probably not that much. I kind of did my own research on this and you can spend very little on lockers or you can spend pretty heavily. Typically I try to go towards the middle when I am confronted with that so I purchase something that is going to last but not necessarily something that you would find at a college or university locker room. J. St. Peter – thank you to Kristi and Steve for helping the building and grounds prioritize and giving your opinion on what needs to be done. It is our subcommittee’s opinion the students at the school now need as much as we can give them. Funds are limited but looking at what we have, we should try to maximize to make their experiences as pleasant as possible. We all feel strongly that this extraordinary maintenance to the high school is important for the students there and the renovation project or rebuild, they are going to see the benefit of it. B. Fields – I would just like to say the price that was given to the subcommittee was $80,000 to get rid of 900 lockers. S. Soule – that’s not to get rid of 900…well that might be to demo and bring in some but that’s not going to replace 900. We really never intended to replace 900. We would shoot for 550 or 560. C. Sprague – I certainly agree and I love the idea of brightening up the halls and doing something for the students who are there right now. I would just say at a price tag of that, making sure we are using it to get the most bang out of our buck and to ensure that it truly what the students want. I don’t know how that would look or if it would slow down the process right now but if they are given a budget of $80,000 – $100,000 and start to actually prioritize which things can they get for that kind of money, I would personally be curious to see if lockers still stay up there. My understanding about lockers whether it be from my own kids or just looking online at what is going on typically at high schools across the county, is that this is a normal trend; that high school kids are not using lockers for one reason or another. There are still maybe needs to secure some key things at different points in the day but some schools use cubbies and things like that and I don’t want to slow this process down but just to throw out there it think a little bigger and more creatively and if there is any point at all in going back to the students just to confirm that this is truly what they want. S. Bannon – I understand that we are trying to make the high school more presentable for the students and I am all for that but I wonder if there is a better way to spend that kind of money on education. Ultimately that is what we need to do to present the best education we can. The science labs we have been done. If we are phasing in lockers, the third year of the phasing, we might be ripping the school down so I do have some concerns. S. Stephen – we always have that boiler. S. Bannon – that is absolutely right. Heat is important to education too. B. Fields – if people want to know what the lockers look like go up to Mt. Greylock because when the next steps committee went up there, I liked the idea of what is being presented because I have seen in person and up close the lockers that are being talked about as possible replacements. The Mt. Greylock students were surveyed and this is one of the things that Mary McDonald, who was the principal at that time, said they were for getting rid of the lockers and the lockers are compatible enough so you can put computers in. P. Dillon – Bill, let’s not do any visits to Mt. Greylock for a little while. Maybe we could get them to send some photos down. S. Bannon – we will have more discussion on this in the budget too. R. Dohoney – from what I am hearing tonight, and I am trending toward this is not a budget issue, this is a bonding issue. That is a conversation we can have in the context of the budget. P. Dillon – in some ways if we are done with stuff on this, that transitions us well into the preliminary budget route.
- FY22 Preliminary Budget Review – P. Dillon – I am going to share my screen and Sharon and I are going to work through a number of slides. The finance subcommittee has been doing a lot of work on the budget process and what we are sharing now is our preliminary budget review. It is talking about process and some placeholders for numbers and things we are doing. It is super important for everybody to remember that stuff changes internally within the schools and the district and stuff changes at the state level. The governor just signed off on this year’s budget and now they are starting to work on next year’s budget. This is a beginning point in our process which will then set up some really detailed conversations in the spring. I am having difficulty loading the slides. I will put them up on the website for viewing. Harrison – if you give me permissions, I might be able to share it. (Slides shared on screen; slides not being transcribed. Slides attached and available on BHRSD website). R. Dohoney – Peter hit a lot of the high point things in the original budget but there really isn’t any significant line item that shifts; it is a pretty level program budget. P. Dillon – we are trying to be very deliberate going into an uncertain year. We don’t really have a great sense of what is going to happen at the state level and we will use resources carefully and intentionally. S. Bannon – this is just the beginning of the process. Sometimes we pay the penalty for being so early that people think this is what is going to happen at a town meeting. This is very early. We can’t stress that enough but it has worked out well for us doing it this way. R. Dohoney – sometimes at this stage there are already big surprises and as Peter said, who knows what is going to come but I am pleasantly surprised with where we are at. Some years we have had to deal with health insurance spikes or something we spend three months digging ourselves out of. I feel pretty comfortable at this point. I think when the governor’s budget comes out, we will have another hurdle.
- Sub Committee Reports:
- Policy Sub Committee – N/A
- Building and Grounds Sub Committee – N/A
- Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – N/A
- Technology Sub Committee – N/A
- Finance Sub Committee – N/A
- District Consolidation & Sharing Sub-Committee – N/A
- Personnel Report: Dillon –
- Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)
- Business Operation
- Warrant Reports – S. Harrison – we put these few in because we haven’t had a quorum of our warrant subcommittee so the first round of warrants we had one member sign (B. Fields) and I think we had two people sign at the last subcommittee meeting and if that happens and there is no quorum of the warrant subcommittee then the school committee needs to be made aware. I would say that it would be best if we have a vote on it. That way it is formal if the auditors ask about it. It is pretty standard. Bannon – it is likely that in the next few months we won’t have an in attendance subcommittee quorum. I know we can designate one person to sign the warrants. Should we look at that so you don’t have to go through this. S. Harrison – even if there is only one that signs, by law, we are supposed to bring that back to the school committee. For me it is not an issue because I put it all together so I know what warrants are being signed and I can track them. MOTION TO APPROVE BOTH WARRANTS AS PRESENTED – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: M. THOMAS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- FY20 Budget: Final Expenses & Balances – S. Harrison – this is just the report on the final expenses and account balances. You will see that typically there are not many balances left on the line item accounts because I move it into contingency. This makes it easier for me to track. This will give you an idea of what was spent last year. Obviously, not a typical year with school being out for three months, we didn’t have enough of our regular expenditures; transportation, subs, purchasing, etc. didn’t happen. You will also see this again when you look at the line item budget for FY22. If you do have time to look at the line items it might help new members give you a good background when we start looking at the proposed budget. Bannon – I recommend the new members virtually sit down with Sharon to go over these because it will give you a head start on the budget. P. Dillon – what I do every year when Sharon and I look at this is I go through it with a highlighter and I flag things that look odd then I ask Sharon about it.
- Request to Revise Vote for Borrowing – S. Harrison – this is a request for a revised vote on the borrowing. During the FY21 budget process, we did have a vote for borrowing $80,000 for the chiller and $60,000 for filters. The filters came in much lower than that and we were able to absorb that in the operating budget so we just need to do the borrowing for the chillers. I am requesting a revised vote that only has the chillers in it. We need to notify the towns that it has been revised and we need to certify to the banks when we do our borrowing how much we have approved to borrow and it would be better if we have the one vote for the $80,000 which is all we need to borrow this year. MOTION THAT THE DISTRICT UPDATES A BORROWING VOTE AND APPROPRIATES THE AMOUNT OF $80,000 FOR CHILLER REPAIRS, INCLUDING THE PAYMENT OF ALL COSTS INCIDENTAL OR RELATED THERETO, SAID SUMS TO BE EXPENDED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE. TO MEET THIS APPROPRIATION, THE DISTRICT TREASURER, WITH APPROVAL OF THE CHAIR OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE, IS AUTHORIZED TO BORROW SAID AMOUNT UNDER MGL CH 71, SEC 16(D) OF THE GENERAL LAWS AND THE DISTRICT AGREEMENT, AS AMENDED, OR PURSUANT TO ANY OTHER ENABLING AUTHORITY. ANY PREMIUM RECEIVED UPON THE SALE OF ANY BONDS OR NOTES, AMY BE APPLIED TO THE PAYMENT OF COSTS APPROVED BY THIS VOTE IN ACCORDANCE WITH CHAPTER 44, SECTION 20 OF THE GENERAL LAWS, THEREBY REDUCING THE AMOUNT AUTHORIZED TO PAY SUCH COSTS BY A LIKE AMOUNT – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
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- Old Business
- New Business
- Public Comment – Amanda Hanlen Hochler, 193 Maple Avenue, Great Barrington – I had a conversation with Peter and with Ben Doren and several of the classroom teachers regarding Wednesdays. I have to let the school committee know that I have a lot of concern about Wednesday and the amount of asynchronous learning on those days. When I reached out to Peter and Ben, they told me that the primary purpose of Wednesday was for professional development and to allow cleaning between cohorts. DESE says that there should be 170 days of school this year. They granted ten days of professional development in the beginning of the year and if we took the ten half days that we would normally have in a school year and we combined them and made them into full days, that would only be five. We currently had 12 Wednesdays in the school year plus the ten days at the beginning of the year are 22 school days that we have had professional development. I have three kids in school. I will tell you my experience in those grade levels is that a teacher checks in with them for a morning meeting type situation for anywhere between five to thirty minutes and there might be a total of one hour of work that is assigned for the entire day. In the fifth grade on Thursdays and Friday in a hybrid model, my son also only had an hour of work. I reached out to the teachers because I thought we must be missing something. My son must be telling me he’s done. I reached out to the teachers and they said no, he absolutely is on track. When I log into Canvas and I look and see a spelling lesson for 30 minutes worth of work and a math video, I have to tell you that three hours a week to replace 18 hours a week of instruction is terrible. If I asked DESE to look at this, and I believe I am going to and many other parents are going to, I don’t think your Wednesday morning check-in comes anywhere meeting 170 days of schools. In the spring, DESE guides to us were student reengagement. I am also an educator in Lenox. Wednesday looks very much like a spring emergency COVID teaching looked like. It looks like student reengagement. If you are able to get your kid to read for 30 minutes, if you are able to do all the extra things and I did because I hired a nanny, I gave up my salary to be with my kids to help them with their education, but I know a lot of other parents can’t say did you do that extra 30 minutes of reading. If I called the school on any other day and said, hey Peter, Ben, Tim, I am not bringing Evan to school today but don’t worry, we will read for 20 minutes and watch a math video, it would be absolutely unacceptable. In the community, we call it wasted Wednesday. I think if DESE takes a close look at this, it doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the 170 day requirement. In a pandemic, I understand, but I also realize there are two kinds of philosophies, around all of this. One is it is a pandemic; our expectations should be low and the other one is there is a pandemic; so what, now what; how are we going to kids to meet the standards. At the end of the year, they haven’t cancelled MCAS. We are still expected to take it. That makes me sad but I feel that in the district where I work, we are making strides to make sure our kids are going to be ready for that. I have to tell you that in this district we are failing kids. Bannon – thank you. P. Gibbons – following up on that comment, I will be a little bit mild. I agree with everything that was just said. I didn’t hear the term wasted Wednesday before but I would add in there wasted Mondays and Tuesdays. Under the hybrid model that the middle school used earlier before Thanksgiving and I would hope if we are to return to a hybrid model that there is going to be a big change in what goes on Monday and Tuesday. My grandson is not getting the education that people are paying for. P. Dillon – I might not typically do this. I understand their concerns and this is very much a work in progress. I think it is important to unpack all sorts of pieces about this. Until quite recently, the elementary school PK – 4th grade was four days a week, everybody in school and we really shifted the schedule so that could happen. Our days are slightly longer than many other school districts and I feel totally confident that even with the Wednesdays at the elementary school, when we are in face-to-face learning we are doing wonderfully and kids are being afforded a full range of opportunities and experiences. It isn’t just about days; it is also about minutes and hours. I acknowledge that in some cases the Wednesdays have been less challenging then the can be and that is feedback we are taking and trying to incorporate. Our hope was that we would get the middle school four days a week in grades 5 and 6 and we were almost ready to do that and we got the 2nd or 3rd surge depending on one’s perspective. If and when we are able to do that, I will have total confidence in what is happening there. The 7th and 8th grade at the middle school is a little more challenging. Those classes and grades are bigger so the real constraints around being able to get everybody in. As evidenced in the last few weeks with the remote learning at the middle school, kids including my own son who is an 8th grader are very engaged and have a very full day of learning which unlike some neighboring districts where they are only doing half a day face-to-face, I think our kids are actually getting more time. The high school has been able all along to have a model where kids are in school and kids who are at home are participating in the same context. I think that works. As we get to the spring, I think we may have to revisit Wednesday some. There is a big debate going on at the state level around student learning time. The state had all the districts fill out very complex surveys and then flag districts who were not meeting those expectations. From our perspective, we are meeting the expectation and the state gave us conditional approval. That being said, there is work for us to do and I think we have to continue to rethink what’s happening on Wednesdays. I am in conversations with the principals and they are in conversations with teachers around that. The thing that is harder about Wednesdays are the implications for child care and working parents who can’t be home with their kids. R. Dohoney – why does Wednesday not look just like Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in the fully remote model. P. Dillon – it potentially could or it could over time. When we were in the fully hybrid model it made sense for there to be a break between kids in the building when we thought that wiping down everything was an important lever in that. That is why we built that in. That may now be less important than we thought but it is still a very good practice. K. Farina – Can I speak to that from the high school perspective? S. Bannon – we are not getting into a long discussion on this because it is not on the agenda and this is citizen speak time/public comment and we usually don’t get into long discussion about this. R. Dohoney – I agree with you Steve. I retract my question. I would like that issue put on the agenda for the next meeting. P. Dillon – it is fair to think that we get feedback and we continually evolve. We are open to that and open to making shifts.
- Written Communication
MOTION TO ADJOURN – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: M. THOMAS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
Meeting Adjourned at 7:30pm
Submitted by: Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
School Committee Secretary