Notes from School Committee meeting on September 13

All right, the Owl kept waiting and waiting for someone to send in an article with a summary of everything discussed on Monday’s School Committee zoom, but alas, no one did. And so she had to watch the whole thing–except she didn’t because math-y people started to talk and it was time to get a kid from soccer practice. So here, in its not-entirety is the September 13, 2021 School Committee meeting–the replay is Owl-style. As in, if you want the facts, you can either watch the videotape here on Weston Media, or get the actual minutes when they are approved some time in the future. You choose. Tick-tock. Okay, you’re still here so here’s what happened:

First up was the Superintendent’s Report. Dr. Midge Connolly started it off with a phrase that remains a favorite of mine: “The opening [of school] went relatively smoothly.”  What is the “relative”? As compared to herding cats, it went well. As compared to not having school in-person, it went pretty well. In the case of either of those options, I completely agree. In fact, I would remove the “relatively” and just say, it was good as long as you didn’t want to send your kids on a bus from the northside or get them home on a late bus. But we’ll get to that. 

One of the other little tidbits from the intro salvo is that the high school and middle school have some of the highest athletic and club participation rates “in recent memory.” This does not surprise me even for a heartbeat–you’re talking about kids who had entire seasons canceled last year, and whose main social outlet was tormenting their twin. Oh maybe that was just here. In any case, go ‘cats. 

In the Covid update portion of the meeting, things got more “relatively smooth.” Weston is mandating vaccination or weekly testing. The schools are still waiting for official state information on who has been vaccinated and who has not. It would behoove all you middle and high school cop-outs to go get those vaccinations. As of next week, we know names. Oh, jeez, people relax, we are not actually going to be calling them out–privacy and all that jazz. 

More info on pooled testing here

Pooled testing starts Tuesday September 21st and the public school nurses are currently being trained on the CIC (state) platform. All families should sign up for pooled testing. If you have not received the email with information about this, please contact your child’s school.  Dr. Connolly also mentioned that we know that eligible Weston students (12+)  are highly vaccinated, but 80% of cases in town are breakthrough cases. Vaccination just means they are not getting as sick. Weekly screening of athletes at MS/HS will be mandatory. Also, there is a backup plan if the school system doesn’t get all state products in time (summarizing the plan B: our nurses kick ass).

Weston High School dining room. Obviously I’m kidding. Photo by Jacques Bopp on Unsplash

Dining regulations are the same as last year. “Dining” was the exact term. I would have to say, as the mom of  high schoolers offered cold sandwiches every day, this is not “dining”. This is “luncheon” or perhaps “picnic lunch.” Along the picnic theme, outdoor lunchtimes happen as much as possible, but temperature restrictions and rain forces kids indoors. Indoor “dining” procedures will be the same as last year–kids face forward, there are plexiglass shields between kids and, six foot distancing. I have now deleted six versions of editorial comments on this but find that there is no way to make this funny. This sucks. I get it, but it sucks.

Actual dining hall.

Then there was time for subcommittee reports: SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council) met the new Director of Student Services in a coffee earlier this week.  BWMPO’s (Boston Weston Metco Parents Organization) Keitrice Johnson said they’re happy to be back, and they are putting into place learnings from last year such as they should do more than one fundraising event for the John Hudson scholarship. They’ve already started planning for those events.  Also BWMPO now has an extracurricular and athletic subcommittee to make sure Boston kids can participate in MS/HS Weston clubs and athletics.  Go ‘cats again.

Public comment was appreciative of elementary school teachers taking kids outside for lessons. Alyson Muzila, SC member, reminded everyone that we have a Nature Classroom on the Case Estates campus which was built by parents, community volunteers and students. Get outside! 

Okay and here’s where the Owl took a break. Mathematics Program Review. Ermigod. 34 minutes of mathy stuff. No, seriously, it was the results of the external review of the K-12 math program. I promise to inhale coffee and summarize that review another day. I can do it.  You can also watch it on Weston Media Center (starts around 20 minutes and goes to 54 minutes. 54-20=34)

Another part of the meeting I need to go back to when I have time is the presentation by our new Student Services Director, Martha Bakken. She spoke from minutes 55 to 1:12 on the video tape but I promise I’ll be back for more fun summarizing. Yeah, you can’t wait, I know. 

Route 30 looks clear. Oh wait, that’s not Route 30. Photo by Tobias on Unsplash

After Ms. Bakken, we were back to Dr. Connolly for further updates on the start of school. This is when northside buses were mentioned as being a “work in progress”. Given the amount of time I have spent working with the Bus Barn on re-routing buses for ontime arrival, I just don’t feel like reviewing it. Bottom line: say no to the 4-way stop, and to the Route 20 and Route 30 lights. That is all.  Also time for yellow helicopters for the northside–it is Weston after all. We can do it.  Maybe 70 drones carrying 70 kids? Things to think about.

Dr. Connolly and Dr. Kimo Carter then talked a little about progress on the strategic action plan to move the district forward. Three items were discussed but honestly… yeah, watch it yourself. I’m done.

  1. Curriculum Website for Elementary school teachers – impressive document, can be live-changed as necessary
  2. Data-informed process for coaching of teachers
  3. School wide practice for learning experiences. Connectedness with school.Relatively successful at all levels

Drs Carter and Connolly will keep the School Committee informed on what is happening with the action plan with periodic updates. 

So after the math review (how many minutes again? What if the train were coming the other direction and a crow got in the way?), it was mentioned that other department reviews are on the schedule.  Social studies is next up. Dr. Carter says they are coming up with the final plan for the review–  “there’s no point in scheduling an external review without people being able to come in and observe.” They are going to see how the pandemic evolves…hopeful for a winter internal review, and then a spring external review… depends on covid. Athletics has already presented their internal review but a long time ago now because of covid…does it need updating?

Music and METCO are also setting up internal review teams and will look at external after that. Spring presentation of internal review, fall external review presentation. Maybe a technology review would be helpful as well.

Budget Guidelines approved. That seemed mathy too so I tuned out.

Le Whopper.

The final item was about a letter being drafted from the School Committee to the Zoning Board of Appeals regarding 518 South Avenue, the property that proposes 200 rental units.  Ken Newberg is the School Committee member with the lead on this–in a conversation with John Field at Town Hall, it appears that the so-called Whopper would house an estimated 70 students, about 38 would be elementary school aged kids. 

Mr. Newberg emphasized that In no way is the School Committee opining on the merits of the Whopper. The proposed letter would instead suggest the following:

Condition 1; developer cannot deny bus access to the property –there are no sidewalks on the southside of route 30, and don’t want 70 students waiting for buses

Condition 2: make sure buses have access. Applicant has to dedicate a paved space close to apartment complex so that bus can load and unload students in a safe space and that bus can turn around on paved surface. 

Condition 3: prohibit short-term leases – require leases of at least 10 months. The reason for this is that mid-year enrollment changes are disruptive.

After a short discussion, the committee decided they were not entirely happy with the third proposed condition. This last one will be changed to asking for communication to the school with as much lead time as possible for new enrollments. This letter was approved with the change to last condition, and the Committee agreed to appoint Ken Newberg as spokesperson for SC as required in ZBA hearings.

That’s all I’ve got. yes, I’ll be back for the bits I missed on math and student services. You all owe me. Oh, and watch the video if you want to be sure this is all right–I’m not a town employee, a scribe, nor am I very patient.

That’s all she wrote. Let the corrections emails begin.

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