TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury School Committee met on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020 for a virtual meeting via teleconference.
The committee observed a moment of silence for Elaine Fiske, a 35-year veteran of the Heath Brook School.
The committee first addressed the Wynn Middle School Washington, D.C. field trip for spring 2021. Principal John Weir thanked and acknowledged teacher Michael Gillespie for his hard work in planning the trip, but due to current public health restrictions from the state, the committee voted to postpone the trip.
The committee also discussed participation in athletics and co-curricular activities for students in the district’s remote learning academy. Malone said that the district usually takes attendance into account for participation in activities, but the pandemic presented an unusual situation.
“It would be my recommendation that the committee consider allowing students who are in the Remote Learning Academy to participate in athletics and activities... to promote interaction and social emotional learning of the students in the school system,” said Malone.
Athletic director Ron Drouin gave some insight into the fall sports season, explaining that the season will be seven weeks long, and teams will play the same opponent twice in one week. Indoor events will not permit spectators, but games will be aired on local cable access by Tewksbury Telemedia.
The board voted to allow RLA students to participate in activities through the school year as long as the hybrid model is in place.
Malone gave his superintendent update, thanking administrators and staff for their hard work to make the opening possible. He said that AlphaBest will be providing childcare and extended day on a limited basis, utilizing some school space and some offsite space.
Students enrolled in the Remote Learning Academy (17 percent of the district) will be taught by Tewksbury teachers, aligned with Tewksbury curriculum.
Malone asked families to be careful when traveling out of state and urged them to adhere to state quarantine guidelines. The district will also be enforcing the state’s mandatory flu shot requirement.
Malone is working with town officials to plan socially distanced ALICE active shooter and fire drills.
Assistant superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan reviewed the COVID-19 screening expectations for parents and guardians, asking for wellness checks to be done with their students before sending them to school. The screening document lists COVID-19 symptoms, as well as procedures for safe drop-off and pick-up (the document may be found on the district website).
She noted that students who stay home due to potential infection may still access their classes from home. Theriault-Regan also reviewed the district’s mask protocol, requiring students and staff to wear disposable or frequently-cleaned reusable masks on all school grounds and at all school events (including sporting events, buses, and bus stops).
Theriault-Regan asked all families to follow the “birthday candle test... if a student or an adult can blow out the flame through the mask, the mask is not appropriate for school.”
As an alternative for young children, she said that if a student can blow a piece of paper off a table through their mask, it is not suitable. If a student’s mask breaks during the day, they will be provided with a new mask.
Young students will be given lanyards to hold their masks during breaks. If students have difficulty wearing a mask, the district will take a therapeutic approach.
Theriault-Regan also pointed out digital resources and supports available to families on the district website; parents can find guidance on how to use Chromebooks, Google Classroom, Zoom, and more. IT services will also be providing technical support, though Theriault-Regan requested patience from families.
Theriault-Regan briefly overviewed FAQs for grab-and-go lunches, adding that breakfast and lunch will be provided free to students to take home. On remote learning days, families may pick up lunches at a designated time.
Theriault-Regan also reminded students to complete their summer reading.
The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on their screen and on the meeting agenda as posted on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 27 and Verizon channel 34.