TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury School Committee met on Wednesday, July 22, to discuss reopening plans and reorganize following the town election on June 16, 2020.
Keith Sullivan was reelected as chair, Jamie Cutelis was reelected as vice chair, and Shannon Demos was reelected as clerk. The committee observed a moment of silence to honor the recent passing of former TMHS principal William J. “Billy D” DeGregorio.
The committee recognized Makayla Paige as the 2019-2020 Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. This is the second time Paige has won the award.
“She’s just an outstanding athlete, but she’s an academic scholar... and she’s just a total package of a student,” said Superintendent Chris Malone.
The committee also recognized 15 students as Seal of Biliteracy Award Honorees. Seal of Biliteracy students develop proficiency in a language other than their native one. Tewksbury has offered the program since it was adopted by Governor Charlie Baker in 2017. It is a nationally recognized award and goes on students’ transcripts for college.
The committee viewed a presentation outlining the 8th grade overnight field trip to Washington D.C. for 2021 from Wynn Middle School teacher Michael Gillespie and Principal John Weir. The spring 2020 trip was cancelled due to coronavirus travel restrictions; the committee praised Gillespie for handling the cancellation and helping parents navigate the refund process.
Gillespie previewed possibilities for a spring 2021 trip; he outlined safety measures from the tour company and answered questions from the committee.
Malone said that the trip would be dependent not only on Tewksbury coronavirus rates, but also Washington D.C. coronavirus rates in the spring. The committee members voted to allow Gillespie to continue planning the trip and provide the committee with more information.
They were very clear, however, that the vote was not an approval of the trip; rather, the committee will wait until conditions become clearer.
Malone reported that the district is working on a two-week in-person summer school program for special education students in early August pending the status of the pandemic. Malone noted that some summer school programs across the state have developed positive cases.
He also told the committee that the MIAA has announced that no organized interscholastic sports can begin until Sept. 14.
Site preparation has started on the new Pleasant Street elementary school.
Malone also announced that Alphabest has decided not to offer camps this summer, as new safety measures and additional required staff would raise the cost for families and limit the number of students eligible.
Alphabest is working to offer extended day and fall programming during the school year that will be based on district guidance and licensure restrictions.
Assistant Superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan said that district administrators recently attended a virtual superintendents conference where they learned about implementing diversity and inclusion training and heard student voices from across the Commonwealth about concerns with equity and starting honest conversations on racism.
Theriault-Regan said the district will be working to implement long-term diversity training for students and staff across all buildings.
Theriault-Regan also mentioned that the district recently purchased a virtual professional development package. The district leadership team participated in live keynotes and breakout sessions about reopening, which will be available to all staff members throughout the year.
Business manager Dave Libby updated the committee on coronavirus related budget issues.
CARES Act funding provided the district with over $280,000, and the School Reopening Act allocated the district over $742,000. Both grants may be used for different safe reopening strategies.
The district is also pursuing a remote learning technology grant. Libby mentioned the district’s comprehensive cleaning plan for daily and nightly cleaning, developed with food services, custodial services, and the bus company.
Libby says the district can expect to see costs increase with protective equipment for drivers and monitors, cleaning between runs, and the possibility of adding more buses or double runs.
The district recently established a district-wide school reopening task force, composed of town officials, parents, administrators, union representatives, and School Committee members. The task force will look at state guidance and procedure changes.
Each district in the commonwealth will be required to submit three plans to the state — one for in-person instruction, one for remote instruction, and one for a hybrid model. School districts will be making their own determinations on which plan to eventually pursue; the final plan will be due to the state by Aug. 10.
The board approved a resolution to state and town officials saying that each school in the district will work to reopen schools safely for all students, but cannot do so without adequate funding. Sullivan advised residents with questions or concerns to contact the state delegation.
The committee will be voting on Aug. 6 in a special meeting for a school reopening plan. A resident called in to ask the committee whether or not the results of a recent survey sent out to parents were being taken into consideration.
“We’re trying to get as much information from as many stakeholders as possible,” said Sullivan.
Malone added that the district intends to send a new survey to parents based on recent information and guidance updates to try and specify what each model might look like.
The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 19, 2020. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on their screen and on the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 22 and Verizon channel 34.Tewksbury