WILMINGTON — A number of updates were delivered at last Wednesday’s School Committee meeting related to COVID-19. The first, as part of the Superintendent’s Report, came in the form of a survey to gather feedback and information on the possibility of in-person learning this fall.
After that, public comments were delivered by residents or read by Dr. Brand. While supporting the School Committee, almost all of the public comments came from Wilmington parents who urged the committee to take a hard look at what things students will need in support for this year.
“We need a robust plan put in place so that teachers and schools can educate students to a typical school year standard — the same standards that were in place for when everyone was in a classroom,” said Ursula Tasto.
A number of residents shared this sentiment.
A great concern for Wilmington parents, per the public comments, seems to be that students haven’t progressed since education moved to remote. One parent, Steve Gardner, shared that both of his children in special needs haven’t had their social and emotional needs met remotely.
“In no disrespect to any teachers or school board members, with remote learning we’re failing our students and the education they need,” he said.
Another resident brought up the uncertainty of leadership at the middle school related to different levels of remote interaction per teacher. The final comments called for remote learning to be universal and for more diverse representation in Wilmington in terms of staff and content.
The next update came from Dr. Brand regarding schools re-opening. He mentioned urgent work being done at the Department of Education to deliver guidance for both physical and remote learning to cover behavioral health and social and emotional learning. He also plugged an advisory group for Wilmington that would be representative of parents, staff, and the School Committee to discuss fall re-opening.
Brand moved onto the extended school year guidance, which very recently has switched to recommending in-person services following extensive guidelines.
“We’re working to put into place a plan that will start remotely out of necessity. It’s going to take some time to make sure that we’re compliant,” he said.
He numbered about 200 students who annually participate. His intent is to quickly establish perimeters and boundaries so as to ensure safety of extended year students.
A food services update was welcomed next by Mary Palen. Palen is a Wilmington cafeteria worker who’s been leading a commitment to provide meals for students and families during the coronavirus. She, alongside many volunteers, has been providing meals and fresh produce boxes for Wilmington students on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. They’ve given out over 75,000 meals so far.
“I’m very, very, very happy to say tonight that we just a couple of hours ago found out that we’re getting funding through August,” Palen continued.
The plan is to move to just Tuesdays and Thursdays for the rest of the summer and take a break in August to get ready for the start of the new school year.
The last update due to COVID-19 was for summer reading, led by Mia Parvianen. Parvianen is an English teacher at Wilmington High School. She explained that this year’s books will be recommended but not required for students over the summer.
“We want to focus on building relationships and developing class rapport,” she said.
Therefore, the summer reading program will direct students to an app called Hoopla for their recommended summer reading books. This app lets an unlimited number of students check out their book for free at the same time. She mentioned that there will also be note-taking guides for grades 6-12 for students who want guided questions while they read.
She suggested that students try to read for 15 minutes a day as a place to start and read as much as they can this summer.
The meeting ended after the reading of policies and subcommittee reports as M.J. Byrnes presented a resolution on state COVID-19 funding for schools to be emailed to town’s representatives, which they voted in favor of sending. They finally mentioned holding an extra meeting in July before referencing the upcoming town meeting on June 27 at 9 a.m.