School Committee News: Schools, Covid and Rachel Stewart Resignation

The School Committee meeting on Monday, April 12 was filled with presentations about school re-opening, current Covid testing results, and other important information for the Weston public schools community. It was also ended with a giant cliff-hanger, like any good crime drama.

The meeting started with the usual Superintendent Report (Middle School outdoor track is coming, yay!) and then sub-committee reports on sustainability (trash clean-up), METCO (strategic plan work on Thursday) and Recreation Master Plan sub-committees.

The joint meeting with the High School Council yielded news of unfolding plans for full days at the secondary school level. Start times will happily once again be 8:45 am (happily for northsiders as buses have not once been on time for the 8:30 am start. Not once.) The secondary school release time will be 3:15 pm. More information will be forthcoming before April vacation week.

HS Principal Paul Peri spoke about the possibility of high school graduation being on Town Green on Friday, June 4. At this time, the schools and Board of Health are working towards making a “more normal” or traditional graduation–which means Town Green. More information will be coming out to the seniors tomorrow, Tuesday, April 13.

Dr. Connolly then presented about the Re-Opening of schools so far. For the elementary schools, the report seems to be all good.

For secondary schools, the return to full days is planned for April 28, but key details about lunches (spacing and staffing), scheduling, extracurriculars, and events as well as maintaining a high-quality Remote Learning Academy (through June) are still missing. Coming soon.

Moving on to strategic planning, parents are asked to attend one or a maximum of two envisioning sessions coming up.

Dr. Jamy Gaynor, Director of Health Services, then presented new travel guidance and gave an update on pooled testing. For travel, any student or staff traveling outside the state for more than 24 hours must show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of return. Proof must be emailed to the school nurse prior to the student returning to school. If students or staff are double-vaccinated, this rule does not apply. After April break, there will be a re-evaluation of this policy.

For the new pooled testing process, the Board of Health and schools are looking for 80% participation. As of this point, no school has reached that level but the Middle School rules.

If you are feeling the need for more data, you can look at these numbers too:

Michelle Schuckel, the Weston Covid-19 response manager and public health nurse, then presented information about variants, breakthrough cases, and how a party caused a big problem. The Owl admits that it was all too much to keep up with so please take a look at the Weston Media Center video when you have an opportunity. One of the most interesting parts of the presentation was following a positive case of Covid-19 moving through households in Weston. Yikes.

The budget report was then presented by Sheri Matthews. That’s a lot of numbers. Watch the video. WEEFC grants were approved…new starting blocks for the pool…and oh TREES! There will be some new trees at Country School in the learning space to the right of the school. Trees are a great symbol of resilience and Weston always needs more trees. Always.

Before breaking for the night, Chair John Henry dropped a small bomb in announcing that School Commitee member Rachel Stewart resigned effective today. No reason was given, nor expected. Mr. Henry thanked Ms. Stewart for her service and then spoke of the process for a replacement. A quorum of Select Board and School Committee members will meet to decide a candidate who will serve in a one-year appointment until town election in 2022. Mr. Henry also mentioned that he would like to see an appointee who has an extensive union negotiating background. Sadly, Mayor Walsh has moved to Washington. Oh, and is not a Weston resident.

On a personal note to Rachel Stewart: your insightful questions and comments will be missed by those of us in the audience. The Owl is sorry to see you go.

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