On April 4, the Halifax Elementary School Committee addressed a new state measurement set up by the state’s Department of Education to assess a school’s accountability rating. The state placed a greater emphasis on student absenteeism.
According to Silver Lake Assistant Superintendent Jill Proulx, the state is defining “chronic absenteeism” as missing ten percent or more of the school days. She said the State Department of Education has not made any suggestions for how schools can combat absences.
Committee Chair Summer Schmaling said, “I don’t really feel it’s the school’s responsibility if the child is absent.” She hoped the state would have made some suggestions to address this.
According to Superintendent Joy Blackwood, being accountable for student attendance isn’t new. She said the accountability is just shifting to the school’s accountability rating.
To try to curb some of the absences, the school sends letters to parents when a certain number is reached. Assistant Principal Brian Desantes said letters are sent out at seven and twelve absences. Proulx said, “The most the principal can do is continue contacting the parents.”
This state mandate is part of a federal initative under the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” The accountability check, Proulx said, is intended to let students with anxiety issues back into schools. She said, “This is really a push on schools to reintegrate students with social/emotional needs.”
Annual School Choice Hearing
Every year, the state requires school committees to hold a public hearing on whether the school would like to allow out of district students into its classrooms. The Halifax School Committee voted not to allow school choice this year.
According to Blackwood, the school gets a $5,000 credit for each out of district child and more if it’s a special education student. She said, “This is much less than the cost to educate the child.”
Blackwood said the school has “great class sizes,” but doesn’t have any small classes numbers at any of the grade levels.
Blackwood didn’t recommend school choice. She said that if the school said yes, you cannot deny or review any application. All applications are accepted until capacity is full.
Currently, Plympton is the only town in the district allowing enrollment of out of district students. Dennett Elementary is open to school choice and has eight students from outside of Plympton.
School Construction Updates
Blackwood said Halifax is in the process of going out to bid for the school’s new siding, windows, doors, and fire suppression system.
There are some questions if the fire suppression system can be completed in one summer. Blackwood said they will wait to see how the bids look.
Blackwood said, “It’s going to be an exceptionally busy summer. I have to say we are concerned about our ability to get everything done and to open on time.” Blackwood said the window will be “tight.”
Next School Year Calendar Draft
Blackwood presented a draft of next year’s school calendar. It included the following:
• The first day of school is scheduled for August 29, the Wednesday before Labor Day.
• Veteran’s Day will be observed on Monday, November 12.
• There will be a half-day the day before Thanksgiving.
• The last day of school before Christmas Vacation is December 21. Vacation goes until January 2, 2019.
• There are two early release days scheduled in March, 2019. The first is on March 7 and the second is March 21, the same day as parent-teacher conferences.
• Spring vacation runs April 15-19.
• High school graduation is June 1, 2019
• The last day of school is scheduled for June 13, 2019. Blackwood joked, “There won’t be any snow days. I put in my request. We’ll be all set.”
• According to School Committee Member Allison Vance, a new executive director is being chosen at this month’s meeting. Blackwood said they’ll announce the new executive director at the next school committee meeting.
• Proulx said over 130 staff members have been trained by Plymouth County’s Suicide Prevention Coalition.
• The School Committee held a presentation reviewing the school’s A.L.I.C.E. active shooter training following the shootings in Parkland, Florida.
• Proulx said the state’s Department of Education is setting new standards for an English proficiency target. Halifax Elementary School’s accountability ratings will be graded depending on where the school measures.