BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Great Barrington                     Stockbridge                  West Stockbridge

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING – Meet & Confer

Teleconference Meeting

July 14, 2020 – 6:00pm

Present:

School Committee:                 S. Bannon, D. Weston, B. Fields, S. Steven, M. Thomas, A. Hutchinson,

  1. 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, E. Mooney, P. Gibbons, Aimee Molloy

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, 8 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.

Meet & Confer Topics / Superintendent’s Report:

  • Potential Vote to Nominate MASC President – J. St. Peter – Andrea Wadsworth of the Lee School Committee is running for President of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. I would like to propose that we nominate Andrea.  She needs five district school committees to nominate her in order to be officially nominated.  Those of you that don’t know, she is very committed to students, schools and districts in the state and I think she would be a great president and combined with that she is from a neighboring district in Berkshire County is only going to be positive.  MOTION TO NOMINATE ANDREA WADSWORTH FOR MASC PRESIDENT – J. ST PETER            SECONDED:  FIELDS                         ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Update: Canvas Learning Management System – P. Dillon – We are working hard on this. Amy and Uli and the principals put together a really thoughtful plan to roll that out to staff and we have people in all different levels jumping into it.  Amy, do you want to talk for a couple of minutes?  Shaw – Our overall plan has three different phases.  The first one is the staff training; the second is operation at a basic level and the third component is developing best practices, advanced Canvas skills and full implementation at an advanced level.  The first phase establishing the training team and general staff training we are actively involved in.  We have a few different teams; Team A which consists of instructional technology team members.  They will serve as the main trainers determining going forward what we will offer staff in terms of more advanced training.  They also are scheduled to attend the boot camp sponsored by the Berkshire Regional Learning Initiative next week to help get them up to skills that they need for specific training.  We have a Team B which is composed of educators from each of the three buildings.  They are technical support for their colleagues but more importantly, they will serve as leaders instilling best practices for remote learning.  They will receive additional training on best practices on remote and hybrid learning, creating community in this type of environment.  Team C are the remaining Unit A members.  Early next week they will receive information about the first phase of their training which will involve some introductory material, some skill reinforcement and some materials on best practices for remote learning.  We also have something I think is really cool and I am very hopeful will be a success.  Team D is made up of 9-12the grade students who hopefully will undergo some training.  They will then help with the training of their peers and more specifically they will make some sort of help desk for the students in the high school be it a help desk or blog or whatever medium they find appropriate.  They will work with the instructional team members at the high school to come up with a plan to help their fellow students master Canvas.  We have a couple of goals you may be interested in knowing.  We are shooting for September 1st having a fairly large number of staff with class pages established with their syllabus on it and information and beginning to establish modules.  S. Stephen – what is a fairly large number of staff?  A. Shaw – I am hoping 75-80%.  This entire plan is devised around structured training and support.  Our goal is to get people the training that is appropriate during the summer and then to come back full force and get everybody on board as soon as possible.  Our secondary goal is by September 14th we will have the remaining staff that was not on by the first of September and will have stuff on Canvas posted.  S. Stephen – when is the first day of school?  A. Shaw – August 31st.  September 14th will also be an intensive professional development day focused solely around Canvas.  This would be for grades 4-12.  The elementary is going to go at a little slower pace.  They need some additional training on using Canvas in an elementary esthetic.  S. Stephen – how long is it going to take for them to be up to par?  A. Shaw – I am not really sure.  That is going to require some input from the elementary school.  We are hoping that by the start of semester two we are done with any other platform other than Canvas which if we are truly there, that is a tremendous accomplishment to move an entire district.  I am optimistic that it will happen before then.  I have set realistic expectations.  P. Dillon – what Amy is talking about is a little bit of an interesting tension.  I think as school districts go we set the most aggressive timeline around this.  Some people are rolling it out in 18 months which seems absurd to me.  I am confident as people engage in the training and start to use the tool, they move quickly but I do want to leave some space for people to grow into some of the parts of it.  A. Potter – you have to realize some of the scientists may say this is the plan we are going to have to take.  S. Stephen – and we need to do it immediately.  A. Potter – and we follow the scientists.  P. Dillon – the early elementary kids, part of the reason is one they are not using it now and they are largely relationship based.  When was the last time you got a six year old to stare at a screen for hours on end.  It is not developmentally appropriate.  We will get there as quick as we can.  A. Potter – the point I was making Peter and perhaps I am not making it as articulately as I could is that all we have been discussing in this meeting is a single prong of a three prong plan.  This is a key element of what may very well end up being the reality come October, come November.  I just want to keep an eye on that.  I am not all that confident.  P. Dillon – one of the things that is in the back of my mind that I may come back to you for your support on is not only a phased in approach where we start the beginning of the year with half day in some context but as we see how long it takes people up to speed, I may need to build in some additional professional development at the beginning of the year to support people who are struggling by having kids some some remote work up front to have some time with staff who aren’t making progress to be able to move more quickly.  A. Potter – that sounds like a good idea.  D. Weston – I think the work they are doing on Canvas also is a continuum from everybody in school to nobody physically in school and listening to the technology subcommittee talk this summer, the vehicle they use in that whole continuum; I think it is the work they are doing supports all three situations.
  • Re-Opening Plan(s) – P. Dillon – I have assembled a task force of 20 plus people, teachers, paras, administrators. Our initial goals are obvious.  There are four of them.  To ensure student and staff safety and well being; to meet the emotional and physical needs of students (psychological, food, etc.); to support engagement and access and to support learning, rigor and growth.  The state has asked us to look at three models and prepare them (in person, hybrid model and a distance learning model).  We need to develop and share a plan for school committee approval, negotiate that with the union and potentially impact bargain and share it with the commissioner by July 31st.  As it is a little typical, they have not given us the plan or template to work from so about 200 school districts are all working on this simultaneously from scratch which is unfortunate.  I have broken the work up into a number of different groups and they are largely connected to the school day.  One group is working on bussing, drop-off, arrival and dismissal; one group is working on typical academic classes and specials (music, art, PE, vocational ed, etc.) as well as outdoor time; one group is working on special population so very young children, students with special needs, English Language Learners, and folks who are immunocompromised or have some other concerning health issue; one group is working on meals, bathroom, common spaces and cleaning; one group is working on nursing and other emergency protocols; one group is working on after school programs, athletics and activities; one group is working on technology and that is around the learning management system Canvas, access and connectivity; one group is working on mental health, overall wellness and transitions; the last group is largely district-based stuff and union folks are working on staff issues and human resource issues.  Two other things that we are about to do; we have a big survey to go out to all families and I will likely share that tomorrow.  I will get to some of the details around that.  Steve and the principals have done exceptional work.  What we really want to get out in the family survey is what percentage of parents anticipate having their kids on buses so we can make plans around how we use our buses and what percent of parents anticipate keeping their kids home or requesting some sort of full-time remote learning.  There may also be a subset of parents who respond to the pandemic by homeschooling their kids as distinct from what we are doing.  All of that information is important even though it is going to change constantly because that informs how we use our space.  The big initial guidance from the whole country was six feet was the standard and then DESE did a bunch of research and said actually three feet could be a minimum standard between kids in classrooms.  We have done a ton of work and Steve and the principals have measured the distance between every possible chair, in every classroom, in typical rooms and in smaller and bigger rooms and the unique spaces and in most places, we think we are able to meet the six foot standard which is obviously better than the three foot standard.  In some circumstances, and we are trying to figure it out and move additional furniture out that we don’t need.  There could be a couple of places where we would be stuck with the three foot standard.  We may decide or the school committee may decide even though that is the minimum standard from DESE’s perspective, that standard is not appropriate for Berkshire Hills and if we can do the six feet, we do the six feet.  There are hundreds or thousands of bits of information that have been shared from the state including things like kids PK through 1st grade are not expected to wear masks because it is not developmentally appropriate but everybody second grade and above are expected to wear masks throughout the day.  I can go into specific details and respond to questions in a second.  The three foot/six foot thing is a really big issue and something that we need to decide on.  The other one if we go into some hybrid model, how do we separate kids and how are they in school.  My latest thinking on that is if we were compelled to do that because the pandemic reappeared terribly in the Berkshires, and hopefully that doesn’t happen, there are four or five general approaches.  One is a day on, a day off; one is a week on, a week off.  My emerging thinking and this may change over time, is a week on, a week off may make sense and it also may make sense to phase in a little more slowly than we typically would so have days at the beginning of the year to build routines and builds kids capacity to follow all these guidelines and then as the year goes on we may want to build in some additional time for ongoing work with staff and teachers more than we typically have.  That is a high-level overview.  I am happy to start responding to questions.  The big thing is there remain a lot of unknowns.  Steve has also done a lot of work around air exchange and air flow.  Obviously the elementary and the middle school are in really good shape.  In high school, we are very good until we get into our coldest weather and then our heating system doesn’t have the capacity to refresh air as quickly as we might like.  That is another thing we are working on and thinking about.  We will be working with the nurses on all sorts of protocols and strategies if somebody appears to have symptoms; how to check them and get them from where they are to a place with negative pressure and then how you get them out of school in a timely and safe manner.  Tons of stuff.  Another thing that I think buildings and grounds folks think about a lot is will we have kids eat in the cafeteria or will we have food brought to kids in individual classrooms.  The general thinking is more toward individual classrooms than in the cafeteria.  I have said a ton of stuff and maybe overwhelmed you; does anyone have questions or concerns about any of this?  Stephen – I just want to make sure that we understand that we just received the DESE guidelines last week.  P. Dillon – yes, correct.  S. Stephen – we have been working on this forever but then we wait for the state guidelines and we just got them on Thursday.  P. Dillon – the other thing that is important to know is they come in dribs and drabs. We got guidelines around the bigger issues. Then we got guidelines around special education.  We still don’t have guidelines around bussing and that is a really pivotal piece.  S. Stephen – I am sort of blowing up here because my whole point here is how do you put kids on a bus?  P. Dillon – I hear you.  A. Potter – how do you put kids in a classroom? B. Fields – how do you put staff in school?  I talked to a paraprofessional today who is very concerned.  She was telling me that she has a lot of fears and the DESE stuff did not address that.  If you don’t have a staff that feels comfortable and I don’t know if there is any indication of what the staff feels but if they don’t feel comfortable and safe, you are going to have problems no matter what.  I would hope that the staff is consulted in a way that they have direct input.  They are going to be key to whatever we have in those three models are.  P. Dillon – they are Bill.  In the committee of 25 people is slightly unwieldy but is quite intentional to enlist a lot of participation and potential support.  The other thing that is going out likely tomorrow is, and this is in support of the union, a survey to staff members around their own concerns.  One of the things we have to deal with is somebody may not be able to physically report to work because of their own health conditions or the health conditions of somebody they live with.  If 140 people can’t report to work, we are in a pickle.  If some subset can’t then we can redirect their work to support some more of the remote learning.  We really have our work cut out for us.  R. Dohoney – I want to highlight something right now.  Bill, I don’t know if you listened to Pete’s first five minutes of comment.  There is a comprehensive committee that clearly has voices for all considered.  I was very impressed with that description and feel like everyone is very well represented.  That being said, this has to be driven by science, not the subjective opinion of somebody who will call a school committee member at noon on a Tuesday to say what they think.  B. Fields – I talked to a paraprofessional today who is very concerned.  R. Dohoney – if the scientists say it is ok for the schools to open, they should open.  If the scientists say they should only be open half the time, they should be open half the time.  It shouldn’t be decided by the peanut gallery.  A. Potter – Rich, do you have a particular scientist you are considering?  R. Dohoney – I am going to rely on one’s hired by the ….. A. Potter – tell me which ones?  R. Dohoney – the ones that are hired by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  D. Weston – Steve Soule and Peter, I have a small question.  What constitutes six feet?  S. Soule – my understanding of what the state has given us for guidelines for the six feet is, if I am sitting in a chair or a desk, the front of my seat to the back of the seat of the person in front of me, would need to be six feet.  From the right edge of my seat to the left edge of the person sitting to my right, needs to be six feet and so forth.  From where your bottom is touching the furniture, that is the seat part of it and where you are measuring from and to.  D. Weston – are you measuring from one person’s head to the other person’s head.  Are you measuring the actual distance from the pieces of furniture the student is going to us.  S. Soule – the actual distance between the furniture.  D. Weston – and you can fit everybody at Monument at six feet?  S. Soule – like I said this morning, I think that we could fit the whole student body in the building at six feet apart.  I do not know for a fact that we would be able to develop any sort of schedule that might be relevant to fitting those people in nor do I know for a fact that we have the coverage, enough teachers and paras and adults.  S. Stephen – Steve, even if you will allow that many people in the school, there is no way to move them around the building.  S. Soule – that is a huge headache.  S. Stephen – you can put the people there, put big things on their heads and say you can’t come near me but when you are walking through a hallway, you’re kind of out of luck.  P. Dillon – I think part of this is that elementary school kids travel in small groups all the time.  That is what elementary school is about.  Middle school kids do that to a degree but as they get older at the middle school, they travel more.  high school kids go from end to end of the building seven times a day.  One of the things Kristi is working on now is trying to develop a schedule where high school kids are in smaller cohort groups and with the except of having to go from end of the building to the other for a specialized CVTE class or something that needs a very unique space, that in all likelihood high school kids are not going to be walking out and around the whole building.  D. Singer – I would agree.  The organizational aspect of it should be more of a class travelling together so that people are minimized in their contact rather than mixing.  Teachers could even be moved rather than students.  You can minimize the amount of exposure.  If somebody comes up positive, then you will know exactly who has been exposed to them.  I think minimizing the amount of contact a person has with spaces in the building but also contact with different people would be of optimal concern.  P. Dillon – that is what Kristi and Mike Powell and Peter Falkowski are working on now.  It’s always imperfect because you can make a perfect little plan and somebody who is a 9th grader needs to in 11th grade math so it unravels a little bit.  We are working through that.  The other thing that will be interesting is as we get feedback from parents about kids who may not be coming to school at all, that actually might afford us a little more flexibility in some places around space.  The big takeaway on this is a huge heavy left; we will have these three plans put together; we will have contingencies around all sorts of things that happen and then in all likelihood something will happen that we haven’t planned for, or there will be two kids that we exposed and we will have to respond to that.  Other questions or comments that people are wondering about?  S. Stephen – that is one of things that I am worried about.  You get a first grader who somehow or other we discover has been infected and has been around other kids, because it is impossible to keep first graders apart from one another.  What do we do?  P. Dillon – there is some interesting guidance from the Department of Public Health.  Presumably that first grader is one of 15 kids in a class with a teacher and a paraprofessional.  Then you jump into that whole contact tracing mode and that one kid that was with the other 15 kids…..S. Stephen – and they all have to go home.  P. Dillon – yes.  S. Stephen – that is my point.  That’s what I wanted to get out to people.  It is going to shut down.  P. Dillon – it very well could.  I think that is why we are developing the three scenarios.  I think it is pretty universally known that Massachusetts did a great job compared to many other states and thank goodness we are not sitting in Florida or Texas or for the moment, California.  That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t come back to us.  S. Bannon – at the end of August does the state have the final say?  (inaudible…) or is this our decision?  P. Dillon – I don’t think it is fully articulated yet.  I think Massachusetts is funny because they speak very highly of local control and often we have responsibilities to make our own decisions, but when it gets really problematic, then the Governor exercises his authority and makes the decision for us.  I imagine we have some latitude and Berkshire County might continue to have a much lower infection rate than other places and if we do, then we should be afforded some flexibility and if it changes, then we shouldn’t.  Around what Rich was saying about decisions should be driven by science when possible as opposed to emotion, but the counterpoint that people are making is whose side to you listen to is an important one.  A. Potter – where is that science located?  And who does it work for?  R. Dohoney – the state’s working group is comprised of the Massachusetts Association of Pediatrics as well as the infectious disease department from Massachusetts General/Brigham Hospital system.  That’s where the science behind the guidance we are being given is being drawn from.  D. Weston – I don’t want to pick on my pediatrician, but when I take my children there, I have to wait in the car; no kids are even allowed to pass each other in a hallway and the pediatrician stood at the opposite end of the room from me and my child which I only came in for the last 30 seconds.  I am a little suspect; I would be glad to open school under the way my pediatrician runs the office which is not the way that the state is telling me to do this.  My other comment on this is, if this school board needs to take an affirmative vote to put kids in schools, I am asking that we do it under the same conditions that teachers would be teaching those kids.  I am asking that we do it in a classroom that is the same size as our board and audience as the number of kids that would be in that room and we do it in person under the same conditions we would be asking teachers to teach in.  R. Dohoney – I’m glad you said that Dan because I was erroneously hitting the link to get into this meeting so I decided to make a motion to stop these Zoom meetings and go back to in-person meetings anyways.  D. Weston – I am not making that motion because I am not sure it is safe to do that yet.  I am saying that if we are telling teachers it is safe to go to meetings then we better be taking that vote in the same conditions.  I am not talking about a library that is five times as big as a classroom.  S. Stephen – Dan, I have talked to my doctor and he said that the health departments around here have no idea what to do.  There is no power.  They don’t know what is going on.  S. Bannon – that is totally untrue.  A. Potter – according to the CDC, I’m in an “at risk” population.  Thanks for that.  M. Thomas – have reconsidered having the older students do online learning and spreading out the younger students throughout the three buildings.  That way the class sizes are significantly smaller.  P. Dillon – that is a possibility.  There are also particular special populations we are talking about so one might make an argument that students with significant special needs should get full-time face-to-face support and other students could get less.  It is in the hopper and we are looking at it.  What is really interesting about this is almost everybody I talk to has very strong opinions on every side of this.  There are people who are terrified about the prospect of going to school, there are people who are terrified about the prospect of losing rich, rigorous opportunities to learn face-to-face because now their kids are not going to get into the competitive college they should be getting to.  I have never seen such a wide range of opinions.  The thing that is shared between all of them is they are strong but you put 100 people on a football field and they all go in very different directions.  We will get some feedback from that big survey and that will maybe form some things.  Again, not everybody completes the survey and the other thing is those surveys are very hard to do for people that have multiple kids because their feelings about what is right for older and younger kids is often different.  Collecting all of that data can be really cumbersome.  S. Bannon – Peter, let me ask you a process question.  If we are going to approve this plan.  Our next meeting is July 30th.  There are obviously more questions than answers right now than there is throughout the state, throughout the country.  We may want to schedule another meeting before July 30th because if we come to July 30th and think we have questions you can’t answer, you still have to submit that next day.  P. Dillon – I don’t know if we schedule a meeting next week, I don’t think I have enough time to do the work to give you a plan.  S. Stephen – Is there a possibility you are going to be able to figure this out in that time period?  S. Bannon – I didn’t ask anyone to figure it out Sean.  If they make progress on it, we should hear the progress.  R. Dohoney – what I think is going to happen at that meeting, it’s supposed to happen by the 31st, is Peter’s team will develop a plan along the three-prong guideline the state laid out and we just either vote that it is a good plan or a bad plan.  We are not deciding which one of the three is going to happen.  We just need to approve scenarios particular to our school district for each of the three scenarios.  S. Bannon – I understand what Peter is saying and what the process is.  If on the 30th, we have questions that can’t be answered or we vote against the plan, which I am not saying we will, we have 24 hours to get that plan in.  It doesn’t give anyone a lot of time.  That is all I am concerned about.  P. Dillon – here is my thinking about the bureaucratic  requirement.  Give us the two weeks until our meeting on the 30th to put together the best possible plan we can.  You will ask us 30 questions, and we will get it to you in advance of the meeting so you have a few more days to read it.  We will meet the requirement of submitting it to the state.  You will have some questions that we won’t know the answer to and then we will continue to refine the plan and bring it back to you after that.  They have not given us a plan to revise or adapt and every school district in the Commonwealth has to create one from scratch is not thoughtful.  It is not a thoughtful process.  I think we do the best we can, share it with you for feedback, submit it and after it is submitted, we continue to revise it.  The other thing I hope happens, as we finish ours in two weeks, several other districts will finish  theirs and we will review other district’s plans and borrow and adopt that other people might have come up with that is more creative than what we have.  S. Bannon – I am fine with that.  I was just trying to help the process along.  The point that you already made but I will make, if every district submits theirs on July 31st and school opens three to three and a half weeks later, we are not going to get much input from the state.  They will be lucky to have read all the plans, nevermind giving comments.  I think we are pretty much on our own.  P. Dillon – the technical things they want us to do and what we have already done, I think the simpler but really meaningful things, in a typical school year, it is not the end of the world if you kid wakes up and they are feeling a little off, to send them to school.  In the context of a pandemic, it is a huge deal.  The other thing we may ask for your formal support on is if somebody starts thinking their obligation to wear a mask goes against their civil rights or their freedom, we may ask for your permission to exclude them from school if they are not wearing a mask unless they have a particular reason or medical exception to not wear a mask.  R. Dohoney – I’ll make a motion right now.  B. Fields – I’ll second it.  S. Stephen – I’ve been dealing with it for the last month.  D. Weston – I think that this idea of not wearing a mask brings up a bigger issue and that falls under updating policies.  We are not going to be throwing anybody out of school without a policy that supports it.  We have to make sure that after these plans are formulated that we have the appropriate policies to support them.  P. Dillon – the other thing I wonder is, in the context of a global pandemic, can we as a school committee effectively issue an executive order for the short term of something.  To actually write five or six policies, might be too cumbersome.  R. Dohoney – we can work on having something on the agenda for the 31st that will reflect that sentiment.  P. Dillon – the other thing you could do is write an open-ended policy that then is supported by particular actions.  R. Dohoney – I will take a stab at a policy and get it to you Peter for the next meeting and it can get batted around at the next meeting and hopefully we will vote on it even if it gets amended.  B. Fields – can I ask a procedural question?  Since all three building are in Great Barrington, what role does the Great Barrington board of health have in regard to issuance of policies?  S. Stephen – same as Stockbridge does, nothing.  P. Dillon – we are actually in regular dialogue with the Board of Health person every week.  I am on a conference call, Steve is often on that call; we check in with them on stuff.  If there is an incident or a suspected case then we know about it immediately.  They are plugged in to the broader state-wide public health group.  They are pretty engaged and play a significant role.  We checked in around opening playgrounds, when we had the couple of students at the middle school who were suspected, we checked in with them.  They are pretty actively involved.  S. Bannon – Rich, for the policy, we are supposed to have a first meeting and a second meeting (inaudible; frozen)  inform the policy sub-committee about the policy; in the meantime (inaudible).  R. Dohoney – we can’t put out a policy without it going through a first and second meeting.  We would be violating all of our policies (inaudible).  …to put it into effect immediately and until the policy is written.  R. Dohoney – and then have it formally ratified later on by the regular process.  S. Stephen – is it better to do that out of the policy committee or within the school committee?  S. Bannon – it is better to have Rich come up with something so we can implement it immediately and then (inaudible).  P. Dillon – that sounds good.  S. Bannon – can we also look at MASC.  They have a number of pandemic policies out there so we might as well see if any of those could help us.  They may not.  They may not uniquely be effective for us but it would be helpful to look at.  R. Dohoney – they already exist within our policies because they are so general so maybe we just need to do some clarification order that says pursuant to policy X, the superintendent may take this action.  We can play around with it.  S. Bannon – I think the one thing the school committee needs to do is take a leadership role and when school opens, we have approved everything we need to approve so that the principals aren’t there trying to defend what they are doing.  All they are trying to defend is you have to see the school committee.  They are the ones that set this policy.  The principals and the administration have better things to do than to argue if people should wear a mask or not or whether they need to be six feet apart. Those are the rules for our school and set by the school committee.  S. Stephen – we need everything in black and white.  P. Dillon – if anyone on the school committee wants to join the calls of the task force calls, just reach out to me for information and feel free to do that.  R. Dohoney – I have one more thing.  We have these three paths that the state is requiring we plan for and Steve touched on it earlier.  The big question is whether we chose the path or whether it is dictated to us by the state.  If I had to bet, it would be the latter.  I think some of the comments earlier suggested that parents would be guaranteed some kind of option between the three paths.  If it is dictated by the state, I’m sure that will not be the case.  If it is decided by us, that is a conversation we are going to have to have.  I just bring it up because I hear a lot of this chatter.  I’m sitting in a parking lot at a softball game right now.  If it ends up being a state mandate, I don’t want parents to be disappointed when they don’t have an option.  I also want the right for this body to decide if we are going to have parental options and if so how is it going to be governed.  P. Dillon – An interesting thing we are going to have to balance is how to meet the needs of individual families and students along with the expectations for staff.  If 50 parents want uniquely tailored things, that might not leave our staff enough time to fulfill their responsibilities.  S. Bannon – Peter, I can say it more bluntly, the problem is and if individual parents want something, and I understand why they would, we have to balance the learning of the majority of our students and the absolute chaos it might cause to try to have an individual plan for 50 or 60 students.  We are just going to have to figure that out.  P. Dillon – thank you for being more blunt Steve.  Sometimes, I am too careful.  There are tons to digest.  We have a ton of work to do.  In a little less than two weeks time, we will get you some sort of document that probably will be in the range of 30-40 pages that details a whole bunch of this.  Even that lengthy a document won’t address or anticipate everything.  S. Stephen – my concern with talking with people out there as I’m trying to roust up signatures to get back on the school board and people are concerned about the time frame.  I have to say, I’m sorry, I can’t help you.  The time frame is atrocious.  It is coming down to that point that everybody is deciding what to do and we have a time frame issue.  P. Dillon – we do and all we can do is work deliberately and I think around July 31st, August 1st, that is when we will not only share the plan but share it in a way that parents can understand.  B. Fields – I have a feeling we will be able to change as we go along.  As somebody said earlier, we are building a plane as we are flying it.  I can’t believe we are going to be held to anything now if halfway through September we are finding that it doesn’t work.  I feel that we as a school committee can intercede and say wait a minute, no matter what the state says, this is unworkable.  I have read the guidelines and they say “if feasible”.  That’s kind of like a zipper clause.  Some of the things might not be feasible.  D. Weston – I think from a policy point of view, which is where the school committee is, one of the things we have to look at is if families can’t commit to one thing or another, do we and can we hold them to that.  I will give an example.  If the family said I’m going to drive my kid to relieve our bussing then when they need to send them on the bus and that puts our bussing plan in jeopardy, when can we hold them to that.  If a family decides not to send a child to school, so now we have space in the classroom and then they decide they are sending their child to school, that could do it.  There is a school in Ohio that is going to let families do remote learning or in person learning but you have to stay in whatever plan you pick for the whole semester.  We have to have some numbers.  I still think despite all the work that the school district is doing, the bus may be the limiting factor in all of this.  It is not something we can easily fix.  The bus company can’t go out and get more buses and drivers are particularly hard to come by and I think the requirement for being a driver may be an AARP card.  S. Stephen – I agree with you Dan and at this point, how do you put kids safely on a bus?  D. Weston – I’m not saying we can or can’t do it.  I am just saying that we just need to know from a policy point of view when a family makes a commitment what does that mean and can’t we hold them to it.  The district is making plans based on that.  If I say, I will drive my kid to school and then I get sick, I am going to want to put my kid on the bus but then, of course, he probably shouldn’t be going to school if I’m sick.  I have been in education for 27 years and I cannot remember how many times a parent has sent their kid in having given them Tylenol and then it wears off at 11am.  Parents are still going to be parents and they are still going to do that type of stuff.  We are going to have complications.  My point is not whether the bus works or doesn’t work but we can hold families to it.  S. Bannon – one of the things Peter didn’t even talk about tonight but all of you have kind of alluded to is education of parents.  We are going to have new rules, new ways of doing things and all the parents are going to have to be educated about it.  You can’t change the rules in the middle without at least telling them what the rules are.  P. Dillon – I have been thinking a lot about this and was talking to some parents this morning.  I anticipate some thoughtful letters and policies and maybe some Zoom open houses to resond to 30-40 parents at a time about questions.  I think there’s a ton of work to do around that.  J. St. Peter – Peter, I know you said you were sending out a survey to the parents.  Are you going to send out a survey to all the teachers as well?  P. Dillon – yes, both.  The survey to parents, we did some nice work with Jill Pompeo, the principal in Richmond and she built a really thoughtful one with a couple of teachers and that is ready to go so I will send that out probably tomorrow to parents and then I have been working with the union on a teacher and staff survey.  The big questions there and it is an important one, is if people have particular circumstances that would keep them from working physically in the first scenario.  There are some people and we have to figure out how we can put them to other uses in ways they are not at risk.  J. St. Peter – I know they don’t come under our direct authority but I was wondering if at some point between now and the next meeting, if we could reach out to the bus company to see if they have surveyed their drivers.  P. Dillon – that is already in process.  Marie Massini and I talked today and she is going to become part of our planning group as well and I will talk to her some more about that.
  • Stephen – I would like to put on one of our future agendas, to discuss as a board or relationship with Richmond and what we are going to do. S. Bannon – I don’t know how we do that around negotiations.  It is hard to negotiate in public.  We will get an update.  I am not sure where we are right now either Sean.  P. Dillon – Steve, you will be hearing from Dewey tonight to tomorrow.  I got out of a meeting right before this meeting.

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MOTION TO ADJOURN – A. POTTER                SECONDED:  B. FIELDS                        ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

Meeting Adjourned at 7:08pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

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Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

 

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School Committee Secretar