January 13, 2021

Minutes of the Monson School Committee Regular Business Meeting January 13, 2021 “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 www.monson-ma.gov. For this meeting, members of the public who wish to listen to the meeting may do so in the following manner: https://zoom.us/97058633606 Meeting ID: 970 5863 3606, 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 Jeffrey Lord; Vice Chair Emily-Graves-Harrison; Secretary Andy Dubois-White; Committee Members; Colleen Flynn and Kathryn Peterson Also Present: Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Clarke; Director of Student Services/Early Childhood Center Suzanne Tetrault; Granite Valley Principal Katherine Watts; Granite Valley School Assistant Principal Joe Trivisonno; Director of Guidance Robert Bardwell; Monson High School Principal William Metzger; Monson High School Assistant Principal Jill Foulis; Early Childhood Center Dean of Students/Special Education Coordinator Colette Bidus; and Recording Secretary Karen Methe Note: This meeting was recorded using Zoom technology. Mr. Lord called the meeting to order at 7:03 p.m. Ms. Flynn read the Mission & Vision Statements. Old Business: Mr. Lord reviewed the vote, taken at the last meeting, to allow students to return to in-person learning despite the color designation of COVID cases in the community. Dr. Clarke spoke about the feedback and challenges presented as a result of passed motions. She continued by stating that there had been a metric, since the fall, created by the School Committee, put in place to safely return to the school buildings. Dr. Clarke said that the community felt safe moving from remote to in-person with the former metric. She requested that the motion be revisited and refined to add a metric. Mr. Lord introduced, Mrs. Hope, President of the Monson Teachers’ Association. Mrs. Hope stated that she is very appreciative of the Superintendent and School Committee willingness to listen to Union members concerns and opinions. She shared some members’ ideas and provided results from a survey taken at the last union meeting, regarding the Superintendent’s proposed update on a new metric of a case count of the last 14 days per the Department of Public Health (DPH) metrics of 43 or fewer. She said that 92% were in agreement adding that the staff likes metrics, makes them feel safer. Mrs. Fedora spoke about the timeline for Phase 2 vaccinations for teachers/educators/staff, scheduled to begin in February though she feels more likely to be March/April. Mr. Lord thanked the staff for making remote education work, adding that Monson’s teachers really

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care and that is what makes it a great district. The entire School Committee is appreciative of everyone’s extra effort. Mrs. Fedora, Nurse Leader, stated that she has no desire to get caught-up in COVID politics within the Town. She read a personal statement that she had prepared. She said that she was approved this morning to monitor the positive COVID cases list in town, intervene appropriately, assist in contact tracing and offer COVID guidance. Mr. Lord requested that the School Committee be advised each time new data becomes available. Mrs. Fedora also told the Committee that she is taking the required Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiologic Network (MAVEN) training for the district. An in-depth discussion and question and answer period followed on topics including asymptomatic spread, research on vaccines for children, new variants of the virus and high case count. Ms. Graves-Harrison questioned the accuracy of information that Mrs. Fedora can receive. Mrs. Fedora responded that up until this week, she was not privy to the names and had been relying on people to self-report however as training on the MAVEN program continues she is able to receive identifying data. Ms. Graves-Harrison asked Mrs. Fedora for a recommendation of an acceptable metric based on that data to return to in-person learning. Mrs. Fedora that she and the Superintendent have had many difficult conversations this week, with differing opinions, and she does not feel comfortable giving a number. Ms. Graves-Harrison then asked about cohorts. Board of Health Agent Lorri McCool joined the conversation stating that, in reference to cohorts, the numbers are not as important as the relationship(s) to where the positive cases are found within a classroom. Ms. Flynn asked for a threshold to quantify that. Mrs. Fedora stated that it is difficult and needs more discussion. Ms. McCool added that individual districts are making their own decisions based on what is best for them. She feels the metrics have to be as fluid as the virus is. Dr. Clarke stated that cohorts have been talked about since the fall, stating that the district knows what to do when there is a positive case, there is a flowchart that is followed. She reminded everyone that the School Committee voted for no metrics which she and her team were not comfortable with and why this meeting was requested. She added that Ms. McCool has been at all of the meetings and doesn’t understand why there is a need to talk about cohorts again. Ms. Flynn asked Ms. McCool to share how she handles the need for other districts to pivot learning models. Ms. McCool stated that she does not have a direct relationship with other School Committees or involved in the decisions they make. She is there to offer guidance and answer questions to the best of her ability. She did add that the Hampden-Wilbraham district has 3 people looking daily at the MAVEN data. Ms. Graves-Harrison asked Ms. McCool to explain what an effective cohort is. She replied that it is a group of kids that is identified as a specific group that stays together throughout the day, example given of 3 third grade classrooms that would not mingle at all, they would stay in the guidance of their particular group. That would mean one teacher per group and if the teacher tested positive, everyone in the cohort would have to quarantine. It is not recommended that no other teacher would teach a specific cohort. Dr. Clarke noted that it would not be possible at the high school level. Ms. Flynn asked for and Ms. McCool provided the definition of close contact. Discussion was held about close contact on busses. Mr. Lord asked Ms. McCool and Mrs. Fedora to project how the trends will go. Ms. Flynn said that she feels a lot of this discussion was had in August when the 3 model proposal was given to the state, adding that if there were issues with cohort set-up, it should have been addressed then, when the Committee first began their conversations about the return to in-person learning. Mr. Lord said that with the opinions, feelings and data changing week to week, it is the job of the School Committee to have continued discussion. Mrs. Fedora asked whether the Committee was aware of how a return to a 4 day in-person learning model will affect the schools in other ways such as the load of students the nurses are caring for, numbers in the cafeteria, playgrounds and busses. Mr. Lord thanked everyone

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for their contributions to the discussion. Mr. Dubois-White thanked Mrs. Fedora and Ms. McCool. Public session: Mr. Lord opened Public Session at 8:03 p.m. The following town residents addressed the Committee: Scott Harris thanked everyone for the tremendous amount of hard work being done. He asked for clarification on the return of all high needs students on January 19, 2021. He does not want his child to return. Dr. Clarke answered that remote learning is always an option. Sydnie DeVries told the Committee that she feels safe returning to school and added that being remote has affected students emotionally and academically. Rhys Houghton said that a lot of factors have to be considered in the continuation or quarantine. He stated that the suicide rates among teens is high and calls to the Department of Children and Families are down because no one is looking out for the child(ren). Each family should be able to decide if they would like to go back to school. Mr. Lord closed Public Session at 8:08 p.m. School Committee discussion and review as to their school opening policy: Mr. Lord reviewed Dr. Clarke’s suggestion of Target metric: A case count of the last 14 days per the DPH metrics of 43 or fewer. Transition time: Two consecutive weeks of 43 or fewer before moving to hybrid in-person learning. Three consecutive weeks of 44 or above before moving back to fully remote learning. Mr. Lord asked Dr. Clarke to explain how the number 43 was arrived at. She stated that, per request of the School Committee, she researched information from the surrounding districts, reporting that these districts do not have any metrics, they consult with their Board of Health. She then explained the reasoning for how the number was developed. Discussion was held regarding a possible return to in-person learning date. Ms. Graves-Harrison felt that the Committee should be charging Mrs. Fedora and Ms. McCool to supply the data, for the district to them, as it becomes available. She stated that instead of the case count number that is being recommended, it should be left to them to track the data and the trends and advise accordingly based on the data just for the school community. Mr. Lord felt that it would be hard for planning. Dr. Clarke stated that the staff feels safer with a metric. Discussion continued. Dr. Clarke presented a PowerPoint to support her recommendations. She stated that she was able to accommodate additional requests from staff to work remote. Hazard pay continues for the aides that are working with severe high needs students. Dr. Clarke assured the Committee that all safety guidelines are followed. Mrs. Watts told the Committee that the students have been amazing during in-person learning. She hasn’t had one incident of having to address a student regarding safety protocols. She said they “just get it”. Mrs. Watts felt that it was important the Committee members know just how great the students have been at following the safety requirements. She went on to say that all protocols will be reviewed with staff and students upon their return. Mr. Metzger noted that it has been difficult to put hours and hours into different plans every week and do the other things necessary to run a school. Mrs. Tetrault commented on how effective the 4 day a week in-person learning model has worked for the Early Childhood Center and how important it is for special education students to have consistency on their Individualized Education Plans (IEP). Each principal feels that parents and students are ready to return to in-person learning, knowing that fully remote is an option at any time. Motion by Ms. Flynn that the Monson School Committee amend their re-

School Committee Minutes: Page 3 of 5 Regular Business Meeting-January 13, 2021


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opening plan as follows: To amend the metric for the option of full participation if the case count in the community for the last 14 days per DPH metrics is 43 or fewer for 2 consecutive weeks. School would resume the Monday of the following week; 3 consecutive weeks of 44 or above would require change to full remote learning. The Superintendent and Mrs. Fedora will meet weekly to review levels of connectivity to make a decision regarding any need for return or change to remote education. Keep all classrooms to an occupancy of 15 with all people being 6 feet apart. (Second by Ms. Peterson) Dr. Clarke recommended that she and Mrs. Fedora meet at least weekly, or as necessary, depending on what is going on. She also stated that, as previously voted, that the high school have 1 class of 16 plus a teacher and 2 classes of 15 plus a teacher. Mr. Lord amended part c of the original motion to keep all classroom occupancies to a limit of 15 with all people 6 feet apart, with the exception of the high school where 1 class will have 16 students plus a teacher and 2 classes will have 15 students plus a teacher. A short discussion followed. Mr. Lord re-read the motion including the amended information. Roll Call Vote: Ms. Peterson Yes Ms. Flynn Abstain Mr. Dubois-White Yes Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes Mr. Lord Yes Motion carries 4-1 Dr. Clarke stated that she would notify parents and staff with necessary information. Parents of Granite Valley and high school students will be receiving a call to confirm the choice of learning model for their student. Mr. Lord apologized to anyone that feels like the Committee is vacillating, acknowledging that this is all new for them as well, and are trying really hard to make the best decision, although it may be inconvenient to some. He asked that trust be put in the School Committee because they haven’t let the district go astray since the virus started. The return to learning is now February 1, 2021, however, if the metric is not met with tomorrow’s data, it will be pushed out to February 8, 2021. Dr. Clarke will continue to provide the DPH data to the Committee as it becomes available. High needs students will return to in-person learning on January 19, 2021 as previously approved. There are no current changes to athletics though if necessary, will be discussed, at the next meeting. Action Items: Dr. Clarke will send a letter to staff and students to notify them of the changes.

School Committee Minutes: Page 4 of 5 Regular Business Meeting-January 13, 2021


DRAFT COPY for distribution/approval at the Regular Business Meeting-February 10, 2021

Ms. Graves-Harrison requested that Dr. Clarke and Mrs. Methe be removed from the School Committee email grouping. She wants to be sure that anyone from the Committee, that would like to contact the School Committee independently should be able to do so. Mrs. Methe will inform Mrs. St. Marie to make the requested change and confirm with Mr. Lord when that has been done. Additional meetings will be scheduled at the next meeting. Motion by Mr. Dubois-White to adjourn Open Session. (Second by Ms. Graves-Harrison) No discussion Motion carries 5-0 Open Session closed at 9:07 p.m. Documentation for this meeting: January 13, 2021-Regular Business Meeting Agenda Covid Comparison of Local Districts Updated Metrics Chart Distributed at meeting: N/A Approved by Committee: ________________________________________ Jeffrey Lord, Chair

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