top of page

August 13, 2021

Minutes of the Monson School Committee Regular Business Meeting “Pursuant to Governor Baker’s March 12, 2020 Order Suspending Certain Provisions of the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, §18, and the Governor’s March 15, 2020 Order imposing strict limitation on the number of people that may gather in one place, this meeting of the Town of Monson School Committee will be conducted via remote participation to the greatest extent possible. Specific information and the general guidelines for remote participation by members of the public and/or parties with a right and/or requirement to attend this meeting can be found on the Town of Monson website, at For this meeting, members of the public who wish to listen to the meeting may do so in the following manner: Meeting ID: 820 5138 1730, no in-person attendance of members of the public will be permitted, but every effort will be made to ensure that the public can adequately access the proceedings in real time, via technological means. In the event that we are unable to do so, despite best efforts, we will post on the Town of Monson’s website an audio or video recording, transcript, or other comprehensive record of proceedings as soon as possible after the meeting. Present: Chair Colleen Flynn; Vice Chair Emily-Graves-Harrison; Secretary Kathryn Peterson; Committee Members; Jackie Watts and Alison Morgan Also Present: Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Clarke; Director of Business and Operations Leah Zippin; Director of Student Services/Early Childhood Center Suzanne Tetrault; Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Katherine Watts; Granite Valley School Principal Joe Trivisonno; Granite Valley School Assistant Principal Myriah Hudak; Monson High School Assistant Principal Matthew Sullivan; Early Childhood Center Dean of Students/Special Education Coordinator Colette Bidus; and Recording Secretary Karen Methe Note: This meeting was recorded using Zoom technology. Ms. Flynn called the meeting to order at 5:02 p.m. Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Clarke reviewed the information provided at last week’s meeting regarding the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recommendations and guidelines for returning to school in person. Dr. Clarke talked about a new COVID test available for asymptomatic staff or students that allows them to remain in school where they will be tested daily for 5 days. If a person tests positive, at any time during the 5-day period, the appropriate protocol will be followed. The weekly COVID Pool Testing will continue. Dr. Clarke reviewed the percentage of vaccinated people in town and went over the recent metrics. Survey results, from staff and families, regarding vaccinations and the Commissioner of Education’s school opening recommendations were presented. Other considerations, which included ventilation, 3 feet maximum of social distancing, no charge for athletics, student’s knowledge of policies and procedures, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available for staff and students, continued creation of seating charts and routine COVID safety checks were discussed. Dr. Clarke stated that the Administrative Leadership Team (ALT), at the recently held Summer Retreat, created the following modifications: Visitors required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status No building use of outside organizations Parent conferences and other meetings will continue to be held via Zoom Suspension of field trips

School Committee Minutes: Page 1 of 6 Regular Business Meeting-August 13, 2021

DRAFT COPY for distribution/approval at the Regular Business Meeting-September 8, 2021

Modified events to include New Teacher Orientation, First Day for Staff, Quarry Hill Orientation, Granite Valley Tours, high school New Student BBQ, Transportation Night and the Special Olympics Ongoing reassessment of metrics District Nurse Leader, Mrs. Fedora reviewed the protocol for quarantining, if necessary and stated that she is a proponent of masking in the schools. A brief question and answer period followed with Committee members. Mrs. Tetrault talked about the Special Olympics Games scheduled for October 1, 2021 at Granite Valley School. She noted that there will modified attendance with only the Palmer and Hampden-Wilbraham districts competing this year. There is a possibility that Ludlow Public Schools may be able to attend. Mrs. Tetrault will keep the Committee up to date on this event. Mrs. Zippin reported that there hasn’t been an update from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) regarding sports yet. She added that though sports registrations were due to close today, they will be extended through the weekend. Public session: The following town residents addressed the Committee: Trish Kustra asked if grades 1-6 would require masks for teachers too. Rebecca Morse posed questions on students with disabilities. Board of Health member Nakita Sullivan stated that she hoped the School Committee will address the Governor’s recommendations. Scott Harris thanked the Committee and Dr. Clarke for putting in all the extra hard work over the past 17 months. He added that he has his own personal reasons for masking, unless the district is supplying N95 masks daily, it won’t stop the spread of the virus. Mrs. Fedora offered that there is a lot of propaganda out that is not based on science and a person can absolutely be protected with a cloth mask adding that masking is definitely a mitigation strategy to prevent the spread of the virus, in addition to other strategies. Crystal Palmere expressed concern with her daughter’s trouble wearing a mask. She said that the mask gets wet from drool, making it very uncomfortable. Mrs. Fedora noted that she understands the concern and noted that dry masks are always available in the nurse’s office and said that staff is great about noticing if a student needs a new mask throughout the school day. Ryan Arnold questioned if the requirements will be the same for Pre-K and Kindergarten students. Committee Chair, Ms. Flynn noted that the Committee had not yet made any decision and that is what tonight’s meeting was for. She added that all information provided will be taken into consideration when making a decision. Karen O’Toole stated that KN95 masks, designed to be away from the face, which eliminates the chances of being chewed on are available to purchase. She thanked the Committee for their continued hard work. George Foisy wanted to address the Committee but did not have computer audio to do so. Shawna Pignone spoke about her children who got vaccinated so they wouldn’t have to wear a mask. Adding that her children would follow whatever decision the School Committee made, she feels that the masking should be left up to individual families. Erin Arbour stated that masking should be pro-choice and whatever is put in place for the students should be adhered to by all staff. Angel Ward noted that she enrolled her daughter in the district prior to the pandemic, then unenrolled her for 1

School Committee Minutes: Page 2 of 6 Regular Business Meeting-August 13, 2021

DRAFT COPY for distribution/approval at the Regular Business Meeting-September 8, 2021

st grade. She spoke of information she received regarding vaccinated students, and questioned whether there would be a difference in masking protocol for classrooms that had students who were vaccinated. Dr. Clarke stated that it was misinformation, no child in second grade is eligible to receive a vaccine. If a decision is made to mandate masks in the district, all students will be required to wear them. Craig Johnson asked if the additional stress of COVID-19, masking children and keeping them separated is even being taken into consideration. Dr. Clarke replied that the social-emotional needs of the students are top priority in the district. Additional guidance counselors have been hired to help the students in every way that they can. Demetra Atkins expressed her concern that masks should not be mandated; that the decision should be left up to families and their students. She asked what the repercussion(s) would be if a student refuses to mask, adding that she feels the School Committee has already made up their minds prior to this meeting. Melanie Brassard asked about mask breaks for the students. Dr. Clarke noted that mask breaks have been built into the daily schedules. Sarah Casimiro stated that the dialogue occurring in the chat section of the Zoom meeting is very distracting. Ms. Flynn closed Public Session at 6:28 p.m. School Opening: Dr. Clarke shared an informational PowerPoint on the recommendations of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Public Health (DPH). She provided an update to the COVID-19 testing program. Dr. Clarke reviewed the COVID-19 town statistics including the percentages of vaccinations and recent metrics. She went through the staff and family survey results in detail. Other considerations were presented such as ventilation, social distancing, athletics, student’s knowledge of procedures and protocol, PPE availability to staff and students, continued creation of seating charts and sustained routine COVID safety checks. Dr. Clarke spoke about the administrative team’s recommendations and modifications that will be in place for upcoming school events. Ms. Flynn stated that though this is on the Agenda as a big topic, it is not just the point of this meeting. She continued by stating that now that the students will return to the school buildings, the Committee’s work is to keep them there safely and additional mitigation strategies were presented. Mr. Watts questioned the district’s liability and asked Dr. Clarke for clarification. She stated that as long as the district is following the strongly recommended guidelines from DESE there is no liability. A discussion began regarding people who would like to get vaccinated but cannot. Ms. Flynn was not in favor of the conversation. She added that the decision to vaccinate is a personal choice. Ms. Morgan is in favor of following the DESE strong recommendations allowing for optional masking. Mrs. Fedora reminded everyone that this is a public health crisis, not as simple as my body, my choice referring to smallpox for an example. Ms. Graves-Harrison felt it was appropriate to ask Mrs. Fedora, as the district nurse leader, her recommendation. She added that the government needs to step up and stop asking the individual school committees to make the decision, adding that she strongly suggests that parents mask their children. Ms. Peterson is in favor of following the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are in favor of masks across the board, regardless of vaccination status, for staff and students and 3 feet social distancing in a K-12 school

School Committee Minutes: Page 3 of 6 Regular Business Meeting-August 13, 2021

DRAFT COPY for distribution/approval at the Regular Business Meeting-September 8, 2021

setting. Ms. Flynn reviewed the CDC guideline update from July 9, 2021. Mr. Watts likes the DESE recommendations. He feels the staff has done their due diligence in getting vaccinated and should not have to mask. A lengthy discussion ensued on the difference between the CDC, AAP, and the World Health Organization (WHO) versus DESE recommendations. When the question of could someone show their vaccination card and be allowed not to mask was introduced and the fact that fake vaccination cards are a reality and could prove to be a huge challenge in identification, it was talked about. Board of Health (BOH) member Nakita Sullivan stated that the Board has been discussing collectively, and has decided that it should be the teachers and student’s choice to mask or not, which aligns with DESE’s strong recommendations. Ms. Flynn questioned how the BOH arrived at that consensus. Ms. Sullivan said she is re-stating that, based on the DESE strong recommendations, BOH members are in favor of following them. Ms. Flynn asked when that had been decided. Ms. Sullivan stated that it is something that has been discussed at past meetings. Ms. Flynn offered her concerns that those recommendations will not protect our students and does not feel that they are enough to keep everyone safe. Ms. Sullivan reiterated the BOH consensus to follow the DESE strong recommendations. Mr. Watts and Ms. Graves-Harrison added that, after all the information presented during this discussion, they will follow the CDC guidelines of masking for all. Motion by Ms. Peterson to accept the CDC guidelines for Pre-K-12 universal masking, including 3 feet social distancing, but not outdoors or while eating. (Second by Ms. Graves-Harrison) Discussion followed Dr. Clarke stated her concern regarding implementation of discipline for non-compliant students due to those with medical exemptions. Ms. Graves-Harrison added that anyone with a medical exemption can submit a physician’s note for a subsequent hearing process. Ms. Graves-Harrison requested that School Opening be a continual Agenda item. Ms. Morgan suggested monitoring other districts regarding mandates or choice and continue to follow the data. Ms. Graves-Harrison stated that this subject is very fluid and information and decisions could be changed at any time. Mr. Watts asked what would happen if teachers do not agree. Dr. Clarke responded that she will have to meet with union representation and go through the Collective Bargaining process, if necessary. A friendly amendment was added to the original motion to include staff and students. A friendly amendment was made to accept the CDC guidelines for Pre-K-12 student and staff, for universal masking, including 3 feet social distancing, but not outdoors or while eating. Discussion continued

School Committee Minutes: Page 4 of 6 Regular Business Meeting-August 13, 2021

DRAFT COPY for distribution/approval at the Regular Business Meeting-September 8, 2021

Ms. Graves-Harrison asked what lunchtime would look like. Dr. Clarke replied that there will be 3 feet social distancing but some students may have to eat in their classroom. Ms. Morgan asked why all students wouldn’t eat in the classroom. Dr. Clarke said that would require additional staff be hired. Ms. Peterson noted that she agreed with comparison to other districts. Ms. Graves-Harrison stated that all attempts are to keep students in school. No further discussion Roll Call Vote: Ms. Morgan No Mr. Watts Yes Ms. Peterson Yes Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes Ms. Flynn Yes Motion carries 4-1 Ms. Flynn read the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) recently revised Mask Policy. A discussion began about adopting the MASC Face Masks Policy or keeping the current district Face Mask Policy in place. Dr. Clarke displayed Policy EBCFA-Face Masks and it was reviewed. The consensus of the Committee was to remove under Violation of this Policy by Students, the end of sentence 2, which states “regarding the potential for emergency removal’, # 3 and #4 and the last bullet under staff. Under the Visitors section, strike “including in all buildings and parking lots, and on athletic fields”. Dr. Clarke made the changes to the Policy as discussed. Motion by Ms. Flynn to accept revised Policy EBCFA-Face Masks as revised for the school year and implement in the district. (Second by Ms. Peterson) No discussion Motion carries 5-0 Action Items: Keep School Opening as a regular Agenda item until further notice. Revisit data at the end of each term. Reminder about Tour of Quarry Hill on August 24, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. followed by a Working Meeting at 7:00 p.m. Include In-Person Meetings on the next Agenda. Motion by Mr. Watts to adjourn the meeting. (Second by Ms. Morgan) No discussion Motion carries 5-0 Open Session closed at 8:11 p.m.

School Committee Minutes: Page 5 of 6 Regular Business Meeting-August 13, 2021

DRAFT COPY for distribution/approval at the Regular Business Meeting-September 8, 2021

Documentation for this meeting: August 13, 2021-Regular Business Meeting Agenda Presented at meeting: School Opening Considerations-Part Two-PowerPoint Policy EBCFA-Face Masks Approved by Committee: ________________________________________ Kathryn Peterson, Secretary

SC Minutes 8-13-21-Regular Business Meeting
Download PDF • 469KB

Recent Posts

See All

January 17, 2024

Minutes of the Monson School Committee Regular Business Meeting January 17, 2024 Members of the public were able to participate virtually in this meeting at  Meeti

December 20, 2023

Minutes of the Monson School Committee Regular Business Meeting December 20, 2023 Members of the public were able to participate virtually in this meeting at  Meet

December 11, 2023

Minutes of the Monson School Committee Regular Business Meeting December 11, 2023 Members of the public were able to participate virtually in this meeting at  Meet


bottom of page