WILMINGTON — Last Wednesday night, the School Committee started their meeting with a single in person comment from Ursula Tasto before moving along to the Superintendent’s Report.
In her comment, Tasto pleaded with the committee to consider options for young students that don’t involve six hours in front of a screen every day, especially when they don’t require extra work from teachers.
School Committee Chair Jenn Bryson then established that written comments will no longer be read at their meetings, but any resident willing to comment in person may do so. They will only be allowed to enter the media room one at a time to make their comment.
The Superintendent’s Report included updates the high needs student program, the MSBA application, and the revised school calendar. For high needs students, Dr. Glenn Brand explained that approximately 140 students have had in-person learning five days a week at the high school. He thanked all of the staff that it took to get them in and move their furniture and materials to the high school from the seven other schools.
Beyond the fact that the MSBA Application decision has been delayed, the superintendent shared a change to the school calendar for the staff development day on Nov. 3 to be moved to Oct. 20. Oct. 19 will also be a work day for staff but not a school day. Brand said that the reason for these changes is to help create more time for staff and students to transition into the hybrid model during that week in October, as it may take several days of preparation for all eight buildings to be ready. The revisions were unanimously approved.
An important item under new business was a joint effort between Nursing Director Doreen Crowe and Board of Health Director Shelly Newhouse on the district’s protocols for responding to COVID-19 scenarios. Crowe explained that a combination of strategies is required to create a culture of health between requirements at school like physical distancing, recommending that students and staff stay home if they don’t feel well, and robust communication from the district.
Following the requirements for a positive test, students or staff must stay home for at least 10 days and go 24 hours without a fever before they can return to school. They also have to notify the school and close contacts and answer the call from the BOH.
There are additional requirements for what things must be specified by the district in relaying that a student or staff member has tested positive.
For the identified close contacts, they recommend a COVID test in Massachusetts and quarantine prior to testing and while awaiting the results. Contacts should still quarantine for 14 days and communicate the results to the school even if the test is negative. The reason that positive students only need to quarantine for 10 days and negative for 14 days is because, according to Newhouse, that a positive test means they have already been exposed to the virus for at least four days. She said it’s also possible for the virus to present itself in 14-day quarantine after a negative test.
There are guidelines for if students and staff are symptomatic at home, if students are symptomatic before they board the bus, and if they’re symptomatic at school. Should there be enough cases in a school or the district, there is even protocol on deciding whether to move specific schools or the whole district to remote learning. Concerns from the committee members included flu season coming up and contact tracing communications.
The committee went on vote in favor of recycling surplus equipment once they confirmed that said equipment is broken and inoperable.
They also received a personnel update from Human Resources Director Andrea Stern-Armstrong. She shared that a lot of the openings are at the Shawsheen Street School and the middle school, mainly for special education and educational assistants. She assured the committee they’re being aggressive with job postings and moving as quickly as possible, but some of the applicants simply aren’t strong candidates.
Director of Administration and Finance Paul Ruggerio next spoke to the fiscal year 2022 draft budget that is currently in progress. He also said that the 2020 and 2021 fiscal year budgets are also open. The School Committee then approved the student activity accounts which include the class of 2023.
M.J. Byrnes added at the end of all the agenda items that she expects a resolution to come their way about Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeff Riley’s efforts to have students take the MCAS this spring.
The School Committee will next meet on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. in the WHS media room.