Town Crier

TEWKSBURY — The School Committee meeting last Wednesday night opened with public comments before they ap­proved various items and received the Superinten­dent’s Report.

Lisette Packer commen­ted explaining her hesitation to sign the Test and Stay consent form. As it read, she understood it to cover pooled testing, of which she was not in favor.

“I’m concerned that we are doing the safety checks but we’re also wearing masks,” she said.

Jeffrey Cohen spoke again to warn the community against what he sees as “racist ideologies” in diversity, equity, and in­clusion.

The final public commenter shared dissatisfaction with the locker use at the middle school, highlighting that the first time his son is allowed to go to his locker (where he might put his lunch away) is af­ter lunch.

Two items of interest that the committee approved were a DECA student over­night field trip and the Equity Audit proposal.

WHS senior Angelyn Ciam­pa told the committee that the trip would be an opportunity for juniors and seniors to learn and engage with other students.

As for the Equity Audit, the only concern regarded the language in the scope of work for more balanced and unilateral efforts. Super­in­tendent Dr. Glenn Brand said that they would adjust the language as requested, so the committee approved the proposal with the chan­ges.

In the Superintendent’s Re­­port, Brand delivered up­dates on the Test and Stay program, School Council, and tiered focus monitoring.

Interim Coordinator of Health Services Rebecca Brown started by assuring the community that there was no intention to participate in pooled testing, only the Test and Stay program. However, they’d been in­structed by DESE not to amend the consent form in any way.

She explained that parents could go online and read the form to provide their consent, and those forms would go into a secure database for school nurses.

Brown walked the committee through the procedure for testing. Once a child is identified as a close contact from school activities, she said that the school nurse will look up the consent form and reach out to the parent or guardian be­fore testing a student. With consent, they’ll move forward with the COVID-19 test that day and for the next five days, keeping the student in school unless there is a positive result.

The test takes 15 minutes. They can also provide kits for the weekend so that students can participate in school activities over the weekend. When a result comes back positive, that student will be pulled out of class and more close contacts will be tested from there.

The Test and Stay program will only be for students who are not fully vaccinated, because vaccinated students won’t be identified as close contacts.

School Committee member Jo Newhouse asked how parents could let school nurses know that their children are vaccinated. Brown shared that they have the records from the Massa­chusetts vaccine program, and they received some con­firma­tions at prom, but it would also be fine for parents to send in vaccination records.

Melissa Plowman asked about the resources that would be required to run the program. Brown said that they will staff on Sept. 29 and collaborate with a program coordinator from CIC Health. She described the COVID-19 test as easy to administer and contact tracing as immediate.

David Ragsdale asked if Brown could remind residents what would count as a close contact, and she answered that it could only be an unvaccinated person who was within three feet of a COVID-19 positive person for longer than 15 minutes, regardless of whether they were wearing a mask.

She later reiterated that students participating in the Test and Stay program should still quarantine over the weekend, because the program is only meant to keep students in school with proper mitigations guaranteed. Brand added that this is following CDC and DESE guidelines and not a district-level decision.

Next, Assistant Superin­tendent Christine Elliot talked about tiered focus monitoring through a coordinated program review of curriculum and operations. The Department of Educa­tion gave the district op­portunity for training in the area where they scored only “partially in compliance:” Civil Rights 25.

“The district does not an­nually evaluate all aspects to ensure that all students regardless of race, gender... and background have equal access to all programs including athletics and all extracurricular ac­tivities,” she said.

The next steps included submitting new procedures by Dec. 3, receiving feedback, and incorporating them in February.

Brand then discussed the introduction of school coun­cils as required by law. These councils would be subject to open meeting laws and work on educational goals, educational needs of students, reviewing school budgets, and modifying School Commit­tee policy about school im­provement plans.

He asked the committee to allow this year’s councils an extra six months instead of a year to create their plans. The committee went back and forth but ultimately decided to bring this policy to the Policy Subcommittee before they would approve any proposed edits.

The last two points of the report included correspondence from DESE regarding participation in the National Assessment of Educational Progress for the middle school and the Middle School Committee.

With one abstention from Jay Samaha, who missed the earlier executive session, the committee approv­ed the 2021-2022 MOA.

Subcommittee reports came from the Wilmington Education Foundation Board and the new town hall/school admin committee. Plowman shared that WEF had appointed new of­ficers and coordinated the annual Halloween WEF Walk coming up.

Jesse Fennelly said on be­half of the town hall/school admin committee that they’d selected St. Dorothy’s as the top site for the new senior center and the Swain Green for the new town hall. Newhouse also plugged a CPAC meeting the following night.

The School Committee will meet again on Wednesday Oct. 13 at 7 p. m.

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