The Silver Lake Regional School Committee met virtually on Tuesday, Sept. 1. They began with a discussion of the school’s reopening plan.
Staff returned to the middle school and high school this week. Silver Lake Regional High School principal Michaela Gill said, “We were thrilled to welcome back our teachers.” She said the first few days were spent reviewing health and safety protocols as well as facility changes. Superintendent Jill Proulx and Assistant Superintendent Ryan Lynch visited three out of the six schools on Tuesday with plans to visit the other three the following day.
School Committee member Leslie-Ann McGee asked both Gill and Silver Lake Regional Middle School principal Jim Dupille when students and their families can expect their schedules. Gill assured everyone that they are “working around the clock” and said the plan is to have the schedules available early next week. Dupille also said students can expect their schedules sometime next week. Dupille told the Committee that a virtual orientation would be held for incoming 7th grade students. “I would just like to thank and commend Michaela and Jim and their staff for putting together schedules in record time… I really appreciate everything they have done to make this happen,” Proulx said.
Just as he had done at the Halifax Elementary School Committee meeting the night before, Gordon Andrews recommended that the Committee look into having CARES Act funding cover the cost of much needed building-based substitutes. Committee member Eric Crone said that using CARES Act funds to hire new staff could prove difficult. Crone said that he asked Plymouth County treasurer Thomas O’Brien about using the funds to hire a nurse leader and was told no. Crone said that if denied, the schools may need to look into using the money for commodities and hiring substitutes from the schools’ budget. Nevertheless, Crone made a motion to allow Andrews to explore the possibility of covering building-based subs for the middle and high schools with CARES Act funding through Halifax. Andrews said he was willing to ask his fellow Halifax selectmen for one sub for each of the schools.
Someone asked about the potential need for subs at the integrated preschool. Proulx said that when the Kingston Elementary School and Kingston Intermediate School consider their need for subs, they would likely need to include the preschool in that. Proulx said that the preschool is typically thought to be under the leadership of Kingston Elementary School principal Kerri Whipple.
Committee member Laura Tilton asked how much of the three towns’ CARES Act funding had been spent on the schools to date. Crone said that while more money should be available under phase 4, as of right now, Kingston doesn’t have any CARES Act funding left from the previous phases. According to Crone, the Kingston town administrator (who has since resigned), misrepresented to the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen in early July that the town had not been contacted with respect to CARES Act funds for the schools. As a result, the selectmen voted to approve $400,000 for a new ambulance using CARES Act funds. Given that none of Kingston’s CARES Act money has gone to Silver Lake, the town assured Crone that the bulk of the money in the final phase will go to the schools.
As a result of the issues in Kingston, the Regional School Committee passed a motion on Tuesday to ask that Kingston, Halifax and Plympton allocate to the schools a percentage of the towns’ total CARES Act that matches the percentage of the overall towns’ budgets that are allocated to the annual school budget. The Committee emphasized that the percentage should be of the total CARES Act funds, both past, present and future. The Regional School Committee also asked for flexibility for one-off classes that are difficult to staff as well as noting that the use of the funds is still under development. Chair Paula Hatch plans to send a letter stating such to the three towns’ Boards of Selectmen, Town Administrators, and Finance Committees.
Proulx did note that she was able to apply through the Department of Education and obtain 600 chromebooks to help replenish some of the ones on backorder.