PLYMPTON – Results showing lead in the water at the Dennett Elementary school were discussed at the Monday, March 25 Dennett School Committee meeting. While some of the results were showing clean, others were showing traces of lead. The areas of the building where the lead results were found are sporadic and random and include portions of the school built after 2000 when lead would not have been found in pipes or other building supplies. Three different people from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have been unable to identify a logical reason for the findings. The committee expressed frustration with the lack of a resolution as each set of test results seem to come back more inconclusive than the previous ones. While Green Seal has stated that they don’t believe their system is to blame for the results, the school committee agreed that the next logical step might be to get a representative from Green Seal to come out to the school.
On a more positive note, the Dennett Elementary School playground project, which has been ongoing since 2015, was also discussed. Vice chair Jason Fraser spoke to the three main goals in the development of the project; that it be accessible to all students, that it be safe for all students, and that it be developmentally appropriate for all students. The total cost for the playground is roughly $228,000 of which some $132,000 has accumulated in the form of school choice funds available for a one-time need such as this one.
Voters will be asked at the May 15 town meeting to approve the remaining funding through an article by the Community Preservation Committee. If approved, the article will provide $94,000 toward construction of the playground.
Fraser stressed the importance of residents attending the May 15 town meeting in order to secure the necessary funding. Additionally, other individuals have approached the committee with offers to donate equipment, etc. to the playground if the money is passed at town meeting.
Principal Peter Veneto spoke about the myriad of upcoming events at the Dennett school. In a testament to the school’s academics, up to 80% of the sixth grade is expected to attend this week’s Grade 6 honors breakfast. Friday, March 29, will be the students vs. teachers/parents basketball game. DARE graduation will be Tuesday, April 2. The dress rehearsal for the talent show will be held April 3 with the big show on the following day, Friday, April 4.
Assistant Superintendent Jill Proulx addressed the changes to functionality that parents and students can expect to see in Spring report cards. The previous set of report cards were issued electronically but the versions were not printer-friendly. This issue should now be fixed. Additionally, Proulx mentioned that while it may appear at first glance that the report cards contain very little information, there will be interactive links that will take parents and students to more information.
The town of Plympton is pursuing a Green Communities grant application which would help find clean energy solutions while reducing costs. Of importance to the school committee was the timing for the Green Communities projects as the Dennett School will host much of the district’s summer programming as well as potential demolition and rebuilding work on the playground. The committee also agreed on the importance of receiving confirmation that the projects would be funded at no cost to the Dennett school.
Fraser mentioned his work with Massachusetts legislators including Representative Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) in advocating for an increase in the Chapter 70 minimum per pupil increment from $20 to $100. Representative Kathleen LaNatra and Senator Michael Brady have also signed on in favor of the proposed increase. Chapter 70 is Massachusetts’ program to ensure adequate funding for all of the Commonwealth’s public K-12 school districts. Once a foundation budget has been established for each school district, each community’s property values and residents’ incomes are then analyzed to determine what percentage of the foundation budget should come from local property taxes. The remaining portion of the foundation budget is funded through Chapter 70 state aid. An increase in the minimum per pupil spending would provide a boost to the Silver Lake district.
The committee unanimously voted at Monday’s meeting to approve the 2019-2020 operating budget. Superintendent Joy Blackwood noted that the Dennett budget had been reduced by $10,000 from the original version 1 of the budget by decreasing the cost of the math textbook adoption and reducing utilities. Two areas of increase in the budget were special education and continuing education for teachers. The committee has yet to hear back from the finance committee regarding the proposed budget.