The Plympton School Committee met on Monday, July 12. Dennett Elementary School Principal Peter Veneto gave a buildings and grounds update describing the playground project as “ongoing.” He said they had a meeting the previous week during which colors were finalized. Veneto also said that they were told that everything would be shipped out to the school in about five weeks. “So that’s very real and very happening,” Veneto said.
He also provided an update on the siding project on the western facing wall of the building (the cafeteria wall) also referring to it as “ongoing.” Veneto said that the school has also had some paving, sealing, and line-striping done. “I did drive by there and see the driveway all one color for a change,” Chair of the School Committee Jon Wilhelmsen joked. Additionally, 15 trees have been removed from the property to assist with the solar project. Wilhelmsen elaborated that taking down the trees not only helps with the solar project but also with protecting the building. “Every one that came down was within striking distance of the building,” he explained. Regarding the solar project, Wilhelmsen also said that an engineer looked at the roof and reported no issues from their perspective. He said they are hopeful that the project can be completed before the start of the school year. Some weatherization has also been done to the building to make it more efficient.
Jason Fraser provided the legislative update. “Quite typically, we didn’t end the fiscal year with a state budget but this morning Governor Baker should have arrived at his office with a budget from both sides of the legislature for $48.1 billion,” Fraser said. Fraser said extra revenue was set aside for future obligations. He told the Committee that $250,000,000 was set aside for unfunded pension liabilities. He also said that a $350,000,000 trust fund was created to support the Student Opportunity Act.
Fraser told the Committee that the Superintendent’s Association started their in-person Executive Institute and MASC (The Massachusetts Association of School Committees) will also be having a summer institute. The two topics covered at the MASC Institute include wrap around services which are those that extend beyond the typical school day and how to maximize federal funds without creating a fiscal cliff. “It’s going to help us lay the groundwork for the November joint conference that we hold down in Hyannis between the Superintendents and the School Committees,” Fraser explained. He said the event would be a hybrid one so that anyone without the ability to make it to Hyannis, or for those still uncomfortable with in-person gatherings, could still attend.
Principal Veneto also provided the school update beginning by saying he was interviewing for three positions right now including an aide, a math interventionist, and a building-based substitute. He said that there were “amazing” people who had applied for the various openings. Fraser asked Veneto if they were looking for a fully certified teacher for the building-based substitute position and Veneto confirmed that they were. “Not only have things been busy on the physical plant, but we’ve been doing a lot of virtual interviews as well,” Veneto said speaking to all of the physical projects currently underway on Dennett grounds.
Director of Business Services Christine Healy provided an end-of-year update. “We’ve had some highs and some lows and all of those have been reflected in the budget,” Healy told the Committee. She said there were savings in the substitute line since they struggled to find a building-based sub during the year. Other savings were found in tuition and workshop lines. There were also savings in the regular-day and homeless transportation lines of the budget totaling approximately $9,000. She also said that surprisingly there were $5,000 in utilities savings. Healy told the Committee that one deficit was in the maintenance of building area. “We are fortunate enough to have funds transferred from the town into that line at special town meeting. Some of the funds came from special education and some from out of district vocational,” she said. Things that were able to be done included fully funding the SPED Stabilization Fund, the balance of the work on the fire suppression system, finish the tree removal project, and make the driveway repairs. Additionally, there is a surplus of $46,693 for special education. There is another surplus in out of district vocational of $33,843; Healy said that was after a transfer of just over $41,000 at special town meeting. Healy said $113,416.13 would be returned to the town. She said that a number of fees associated with the playground would be paid for out of the surpluses including wood chips and swing mats. The Committee voted unanimously to accept the closeout as presented by Healy.
Superintendent Proulx also provided a district update. Proulx said that the Kingston Board of Health has asked the nurse leader to advertise a vaccination clinic that’s going to be held at Kingston Intermediate School for residents of Duxbury, Halifax, Kingston, and Plympton ages 12 and over. She said information regarding specific dates will be forthcoming. Regarding MCAS results, she said accountability standings would remain from the 2019 school year.
“For the fall, schools will be required to be in-person, full-time, five days a week; all DESE health and safety requirements will be lifted – this includes physical distancing. The Department of Education will collaborate with the Department of Health to issue any additional health and safety recommendations over the summer and we will provide any updates to you as soon as we receive them,” Proulx explained. Proulx also told the Committee that there were a number of summer learning activities available including an accelerated summer learning academy for students entering Grades 3-6. The Academy will include ELA, math, and social/emotional learning. There is also a Silver Lake Middle School Enhancement program for students in Grades 7 and 8. “It’s a great way to look at accelerating the learning as opposed to remediation which we know oftentimes just further exacerbates the problem or widens the gap for students who may be having difficulties,” Proulx said.
Proulx also said that the Silver Lake Regional School Committee was interested in exploring a change to school start times but wanted to know the thoughts of the elementary school committees before proceeding too far. “I think we’ve seen more communities make these changes since we last did this,” Wilhelmsen said regarding some exploration they had done into the matter in years prior. “It was about five years ago… and we had a tremendous response from the community when we surveyed them on their preferences and ironically it was about fifty-fifty about keeping the times the way they were and changing the times,” Fraser elaborated. He continued, “But all of the research out there, all of the brain-based research does show that later start times for our adolescents and high school-based population is beneficial in reducing accidents on the way to school, improving SAT and test scores, GPAs, and just also with their mental health.” He also said that the State is looking into setting up a formal commission to investigate the matter and then send dictates down to districts. “I think if we examine it for ourselves, we’ll have a little bit more control over how this ends up looking for our district,” Fraser told the Committee. Wilhelmsen said that if there were any Plympton Elementary School Committee members interested in volunteering on the regional study into the matter, they should let himself and Proulx know.
Proulx also provided an Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) update as Assistant Superintendent Ryan Lynch was not in attendance. Proulx said that Plympton was awarded $85,841 from the ESSER II fund. Proulx said that allowable activities for the ESSER II grant include but are not limited to evidence-based approaches to address unfinished teaching and learning, high quality instructional materials using the CURATE tool on the Department of Education site, early literacy programming, K-12 math skill building, planning and implementing summer learning programming, and after school programming. She said social and emotional programming was another major area and a minimum of $10,000 must be committed to mental health services. The total ESSER II allocation for the Silver Lake District is $543,721. Fraser pointed out that that money is aside from ESSER III which he described as “substantially larger.” Fraser said he would like to see these one-time funds used to examine and implement a cohesive approach to social and emotional learning.
Wilhelmsen ended the meeting by announcing some important dates including the first day of school which is scheduled for September 1. He called it as late as it can possibly be.” Other notable dates include the next School Committee meeting which is scheduled for September 20. He did note that some interim meetings may be necessary during the summer as certain things need to be addressed in a timely manner.