Minutes of the Monson School Committee Regular Business Meeting January 6, 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/98027868490 Meeting ID: 980 2786 8940, 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; Business and Finance Director Michelle Loglisci; Granite Valley School 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. The entire School Committee read the Mission & Vision Statements. Announcements: Dr. Clarke recognized and thanked Ken Topham and his students for all of their hard work on the creation of a virtual holiday concert. She stated how proud she was of everyone involved; adding that the concert is still available on the website for anyone that may not have seen it yet. Minutes: Motion by Ms. Flynn to approve the December 9, 2020 Working Meeting minutes as presented. (Second by Ms. Graves-Harrison) No discussion Motion carries 5-0 Subcommittee and Liaison Reports: Policy Subcommittee: Ms. Peterson stated that a few minor changes were made to Policy GBA, mainly grammatical and rewording. There were no changes made to Policy GBAA. Ms. Peterson noted that she hasn’t
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received any feedback from the public regarding either Policy. Motion by Ms. Peterson to accept the third and final read of Policy GBA–Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action and institute as part of the Monson Public Schools Policy Manual. (Second by Ms. Flynn) No discussion Motion carries 5-0 Motion by Ms. Peterson to accept the third and final read of Policy GBAA–Diversity and institute as part of the Monson Public Schools Policy Manual. (Second by Ms. Flynn) No discussion Motion carries 5-0 Superintendent’s Report: Individual school surveys, generated by each School Council, will be sent out to all parents by tomorrow. Dr. Clarke encouraged parents to please take the time to complete and return their responses. Dr. Clarke gave an update on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests. Testing time will be shortened for grades 3-8 and she is hoping to obtain further information from the Commissioner’s call to Superintendents tomorrow. She stated that there is going to be a session sampling approach where each student will take a portion of the MCAS test. Dr. Clarke also noted that no new districts will be put into accountability levels of underperforming this year. Ms. Graves-Harrison stated that she believes the MCAS requirement is a great disservice to students and may cause undue anxiety for them. It was the consensus of the Committee to table further discussion until the next meeting. Dr. Clarke stated that she does not yet have a set date for staff vaccinations. Education personnel are scheduled as Phase 2 which begins in February and goes through April 2021. School nurses have been moved to Phase 1 and Mrs. Fedora is working on the district becoming a distribution site. Special Olympics is offering all unified athletes participation in socially distanced strength and conditioning. The district has applied and been accepted. Dr. Clarke will provide updates on the Special Olympians. The Administration Leadership Team (ALT) has been working 7 days a week to prepare for Semester 2. Public session: Mr. Lord opened Public Session at 7:21 p.m. The following town residents addressed the Committee: Karen DeVries wants her senior student to return to in-person learning; adding that her daughter is only 40 points away from achieving 1000 points in basketball, making her eligible to have her name added to the banners in the high school gym, a goal her daughter set for herself when she began girls high school basketball. Cassie Strom stated that she was an employee and parent in the district and is ready to have students back in school and herself back at work in-person. She continued by saying that her children feel
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safe going to school, the buildings are so clean and maintained. Jennifer Chretien has a child that is autistic and struggling not being in-person. She thanked Dr. Clarke and Mrs. Tetrault for all that has been done; but her daughter’s needs are not being met by remote learning and she implores the return to in-person learning. Alison Morgan said she has been impressed with the district’s communication since the beginning of the pandemic. She has concerns about her first graders reading ability and negative self-talk. She asked that the School Committee take into consideration the great job the schools are doing to keep buildings safe and bring students back to in-person learning. Stacy Beaudoin has 3 students in the district and has been calling private schools seeking enrollment for them. She asked that in-person learning be considered as schools are not the cause of the virus spreading. Mr. Lord said that the goal is to keep the community safe and added that we can always educate students but cannot bring them back. Robin Santos has a senior student. She spoke about how this age group needs normalcy, socially, emotionally and physically. She stated that many are feeling depressed and suicidal, not even attempting to get out of bed. She wants a choice, as a parent, for in-person learning. Kristen Priest wants her high needs son to return to in-person learning. She understands the Committee’s task to keep everyone safe. Her son has a life or death disease and has been having seizures and other behaviors from having to learning remotely. She wants her son and all high needs students back in the classroom. Mr. Lord thanked everyone and closed Public Session at 7:38 p.m. Old Business: The flu shot deadline for students has been extended to February 28, 2021. If a student does not have documentation, as such, to the school nurse by that date, the student must be a remote learner. Dr. Clarke reviewed the current statistics from the Department of Public Health (DPH). She shared her recommendations and metrics for returning to in-person learning. She presented the questions and explained the data, charts and information that was displayed, via screen share, for all meeting attendees. One recommendation is that high needs students return to in-person learning on January 19, 2021 regardless of DPH color designation for the town. Discussion followed. Ms. Graves-Harrison agrees with the recommendation as proposed. Ms. Peterson agrees that high needs students must be high priority. Mr. Dubois-White wants high needs students brought back into the classroom. Ms. Flynn is in favor of all substantially separate high needs students returning to school on January 19, 2021. Mr. Lord is not in favor of any students returning to school buildings on January 19, 2021. He would like a suggestion from the Committee on number constraints for returning. The current metrics put in place by the Committee were reviewed and Ms. Flynn stated that she would like to address the switch from the consistent Committee metrics to getting on board with the DPH metrics before going forward and deciding on Semester 2. Dr. Clarke again reviewed the current Committee metrics. Motion by Ms. Flynn that the School Committee adhere to the color designation per the current Department of Public Health COVID reporting map when making decisions for re-opening plans for the second semester. (Second by Ms. Graves-Harrison) Mr. Lord is not comfortable with the motion due to ever changing
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guidelines by the state. Ms. Flynn stated that the change in the DPH map is good as it now takes into account the size of the town. Roll Call Vote: Ms. Peterson Yes Ms. Flynn Yes Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes Mr. Dubois-White Yes Mr. Lord No Motion passes 4-1 Dr. Clarke asked that now the Committee look at a continuation of 2 or 3 week trends and metrics. An in-depth discussion followed. Motion by Ms. Flynn that Monson Public School Committee change from looking at a 3 week trend to a 2 week trend before moving between learning models. (Second by Ms. Peterson) Mr. Lord asked Ms. Flynn for clarification on the motion. Motion by Ms. Flynn that the Monson School Committee look at 2 weeks of data trends before making a decision to switch from learning models from fully remote to in-person and vice versa. Mr. Lord stated that the new wording was better but “didn’t have any teeth”. Mr. Lord then made another motion that the Monson Public School Committee use a 2-week trend as opposed to a 3-week trend before (stopped there and asked Ms. Flynn if the word considering should be replaced with the word automatically in regard to changing learning models). Ms. Flynn stated that all she is trying to do is switch from 3 to 2, chopping a week off. Mr. Lord noted that he reworded the motion to state that the Monson School Committee use a 2 week COVID virus trend for the opening and closing of in-person learning, though it sounded like what was being inferred is 3 weeks of red should be kept before closing and 2 weeks of not red before opening. Motion by Ms. Flynn that the Monson Public School Committee use a 2 week COVID virus trend for the determination of the opening of in-person learning at Monson Public Schools. (Second by Ms. Peterson) Changed to the Monson Public Schools use a 2 week COVID virus trend for the determination of in determining the opening of in-person learning and a 3 week COVID virus trend for the closing of in-person learning. Discussion about 2 week trend versus 3 week trend was held. Ms. Flynn shared that the state recommends that, regardless of DPH COVID color designation, if there is no concrete information of COVID cases in the school system, it should remain open. Mr. Lord stopped the discussion to circle back for a vote on the current
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motion, reading it as the Monson Public School Committee will use a 2 consecutive week COVID virus trend designation of something other than red for the determination of the opening of in-person learning and a 3 week consecutive COVID virus designation of red for the cancellation of in-person learning. Ms. Graves-Harrison asked for the last part of the motion to be read again for her clarification. No further discussion Roll Call Vote: Ms. Peterson No Ms. Flynn Yes Mr. Dubois-White Yes Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes Mr. Lord Yes Motion carries 4-1 Mr. Lord stated that because there have been so many ideas on the table he is making the following motion. Motion by Mr. Lord that the Monson School Committee move forward with their reopening of the Monson Public Schools for in-person learning, despite the color designation of COVID cases in the community. (Second by Ms. Flynn) Discussion was held. Ms. Peterson asked to hear from Dr. Clarke regarding this motion. Dr. Clarke stated that many school districts are in person learning despite the town being red. She feels that the schools are extremely safe and she and the Administration Leadership Team (ALT) staff wants the students back, they are all very worried about the kids and she agreed with Ms. Peterson that it could be a very long time before the district could return to in person learning, perhaps not until spring. Mr. Lord noted that we are averaging approximately 3,100 deaths per day from this virus and don’t really know much more about it but know a lot more people have the virus and a lot more people are dying from it. He added that a lot more people in our own community have the virus. He continued noting that the School Committee has taken admirable steps to keep everyone in the district safe and he applauds the Committee for that. He feels that the idea of just getting the kids back in school, no matter what, does not sit right with him. He added that just because people are sick of this virus, and want to get the kids back in school, the Committee should not be short-sighted and fool hardy, in his opinion. Although he made the current motion, he does not agree with it at all. Ms. Peterson stated that as a fully remote teacher, with students that have not stepped foot in the building since March 2020, it is very concerning to see, or not see them. Dr. Clarke added that students are languishing, they are not learning.
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Some are in dysfunctional homes, not receiving social/emotional support, not socializing and reiterated that she and ALT staff are very worried. Ms. Peterson acknowledged that students’ socialization should not come before their well-being and that this is a very hard decision to make. Ms. Flynn spoke about the mitigation strategies that the district has in place adding that the schools are full of committed staff members who are doing a really fantastic job and are not risking the students’ chance to come back. The mask wearing, social distancing and other protocols in place are supported by the science. She noted that the transmission of the virus comes from small private gatherings. She doesn’t see it happening in schools and/or restaurants and she, herself has been dealing with COVID in a retail, food-service work environment and hasn’t had one case due to the mitigation strategies being followed to the fullest extent. Her feeling is that the strategies that are in place, are effectively keeping students and staff safe in school. Mr. Dubois-White asked about the possibility of teachers calling out or quitting. While he doesn’t think that will happen, it could and would there be enough staff to open the schools? Dr. Clarke responded that she thinks about the staff and students all the time which is why she’s arranged child-care for staff that have students in the district and staff have the chance to opt-out if they have a pre-existing condition by completing the appropriate paperwork. She added that the staff wants to be back in the buildings even without students, adding that they are an amazing group. Dr. Clarke stated that tonight’s PowerPoint was presented to staff in all 3 schools to keep them updated. No further discussion Roll Call Vote: Ms. Peterson Yes Ms. Flynn Yes Ms. Graves-Harrison No Mr. Dubois-White Yes Mr. Lord No Motion passes 3-2 Dr. Clarke recommends that all students return on January 25, 2021. High needs students, in substantially separate programs, will return on January 19, 2021. Ms. Flynn asked for discussion now on when to close schools. She would propose bringing back a number of weeks with a certain case count. Ms. Graves-Harrison requested clarification stating that a previous motion earlier in the meeting, to follow the DPH guidelines, had been passed, which means that if the district is red, it doesn’t open, according to those guidelines. Mr. Lord explained that a subsequent motion has upended that vote. Ms. Flynn requested that a discussion, on when to close schools, continue and be decided upon tonight. Discussion followed.
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Ms. Flynn asked if it was reasonable to bring back a certain number of weeks with a number of case counts. Ms. Graves-Harrison stated that the DPH guidelines be followed for simplicity. Ms. Flynn disagreed stating that what was in place before was done with, and a new designation has to be determined. Mr. Lord stopped the discussion stating that the motion just passed says to open regardless of color designation. Mr. Dubois-White said that other districts just close the grade or the classroom. Ms. Peterson said that Dr. Clarke has been very good at knowing when to close, and questioned whether the decision to close could be left up to her. Mr. Dubois-White said that we follow the DPH guidelines, closing a pod or a classroom, and trusts Dr. Clarke to make these decisions. Ms. Flynn read the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines from July 17, 2020. Dr. Clarke reviewed the recommendations that are in place for Athletics, noting that the recommendation is for virtual practices to begin on January 11, 2021 and in-person practices on January 16, 2021. Games to begin on January 25, 2021. She also noted that a reduction in the fees be considered. Mrs. Zippin followed with an overview of specific information regarding our district and other districts safety protocols. She assured that every protocol will be followed and she asked for the Committee’s support to have an athletic season. Motion by Mr. Dubois-White to follow Dr. Clarke’s recommendation to start virtual practices on January 11, 2021 and in-person practices on January 16, 2021. Mr. Lord streamlined the motion to say “to follow the recommendation submitted to the Committee in question #4 which is displayed on the screen.” (Second by Ms. Peterson) Discussion followed Mr. Lord requested a revision to Mr. Dubois-White’s original motion to state as follows: The School Committee will allow in-person practices to begin on January 11, 2021. Motion stopped and reworded as a friendly amendment by Mr. Lord to read: The School Committee restores Athletics and lowers the fee from $300 to $100, for this season only, for Varsity and Junior Varsity. Mr. Dubois-White accepts the friendly amendment. (Second by Ms. Peterson) Motion passes 5-0 Dr. Clarke talked about Semester 2 and the possibility of bringing all students back Monday-Thursday. She reviewed what had been previously approved by the Committee for in-person learning regarding class occupancy numbers and appropriate social distancing. She reviewed the new proposal as it appeared on the screen for meeting attendees. Ms. Graves-Harrison asked for further clarification. Dr. Clarke stated the recommendation was to increase the classroom size from 15-20 while still maintaining appropriate social distancing. Examples of classroom set-ups were shown. Dr. Clarke shared results of an anonymous survey taken by 137 staff members regarding the
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Semester 2 proposal by Dr. Clarke and the responses were very positive. There will be a need to hire a Grade 6 teacher and limited class/staff reassignments to make the proposed changes at Granite Valley. Mrs. Watts and Mr. Trivisonno met with each team to review the necessary changes. Funds from the (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) CARES and Coronavirus Relief Fund (CVRF) Grants can be utilized for the new teacher position. Dr. Clarke talked about Grab & Go Program which will continue. Motion by Mr. Dubois-White to change the number of occupants in a classroom from 15 to 20 for grades 1, 2, 5 and 6, maximum (Second by Ms. Peterson) No discussion Motion passes 4-1 Action Items: Get all information out to parents before the week’s end. Mrs. Zippin will start on Athletics. Send Policies GBA and GBAA to MASC for on-line manual. Motion by Ms. Graves-Harrison to adjourn to Executive under M.G.L. Chapter 30A, 21a, Purpose #3, to discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining and litigation, not to return to Open Session. (Second by Mr. Dubois-White) No discussion Roll Call: Ms. Peterson Yes Ms. Flynn Yes Mr. Dubois-White Yes Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes Mr. Lord Yes Motion carries 5-0 Open Session closed at 9:26p.m. Documentation for this meeting: January 6, 2021-Regular Business Meeting Agenda December 9, 2020-Working Meeting Minutes-DRAFT Dr. Clarke’s PowerPoint Proposal Distributed at meeting: N/A Approved by Committee: ________________________________________