The Thursday, May 20 Silver Lake Regional School Committee meeting began with Chair Paula Hatch saying they were “giddy” because they were finally all in-person.
Silver Lake Regional High School Principal Michaela Gill was unable to attend due to family obligations. Silver Lake Regional Middle School Principal Jim Dupille read Gill’s notes to the Committee. Earlier this year, a subcommittee was established to formalize a dual enrollment policy. It would allow juniors and seniors in good academic standing to enroll part-time in college courses and earn college credits. The student and guardian would be responsible for paying for such courses. “I think it’s a great opportunity for our students to get a jump start on colleges; there’s an opportunity for them to not only earn credit in our high school but really reach out to the next level and really propel them forward in their career,” Dupille explained. Dupille said that Committee member Leslie-Ann McGee was instrumental in the development of the program.
One Committee member asked if the program would be open to the career and technical education students as well. Superintendent Jill Proulx said, “I think there’s an opportunity for a wide-range of types of courses that students could potentially take advantage of.”
Committee member Christopher Eklund expressed some concerns over the way the policy was presented calling it “very, very open.” McGee noted that there were many different models for dual enrollment. She also pointed out that for the last several years, many CTE students have already been involved in dual enrollment programs. McGee said that her own son was in a dual enrollment program at Quincy College taking precalculus as well as English Comp 101 online there. “By the end of December, he had his entire high school year of math and year of English completed,” she explained. She said that it has eased the transition into college. McGee pointed out that if a student takes an Advanced Placement (AP) course in high school but does not receive a score of a 4 or a 5 they will not receive college credit whereas a passing grade at a college while enrolled in a dual enrollment program would count toward college credit. She also stressed that it is financially more beneficial as well to enroll in such a program.
Eklund asked if the courses that are being selected to take at a college are typically those that are not offered at Silver Lake. McGee said that it gives students the opportunity to go beyond the curriculum offered at Silver Lake. Eklund said his concern was students going off campus to take courses that they could take at Silver Lake. He said he was all for students going off campus to take courses not otherwise offered to them. “I’m fully in agreement, I just want more structure to it,” he explained.
Committee member Gordon Andrews said, “So the idea is this is the first step an open policy and then you guys can work on an implementation plan to try to bring in colleges?” “That is my understanding,” McGee said. Except for Eklund, all other Committee members voted in favor of the new dual enrollment policy.
Dupille reported that according to Gill, the high school’s full, in-person return to school has been very successful. Gill requested permission from the School Committee to accept donations from the Kingston Fire Department for a physio-controlled life pack, 15 defibrillators; the total value of such donations is $20,250. A 2001 Oldsmobile was also donated by a resident to be used by the automotive department. High School graduation will take place on June 4 at 6 pm. The annual senior parade will take place on June 3 and students will have an opportunity to visit their former schools. The annual senior awards will be a virtual presentation on June 1.
Dupille then turned to his own update. Dupille said that later that week they would be holding their practice MCAS testing with actual testing on May 25, May 27, and wrapping up in early June. Spirit Week was held at the Middle School from May 10 through May 14. Dupille said clubs are now meeting after school once again including the school paper the Laker Ledger as well as the drama club. He said they were also looking at bringing back a modified field day sometime in June based on the new safety guidelines that are being released.
Proulx told the Committee that on May 17 the Department of Education issued a new set of Covid 19 frequently asked questions with updated information. Effective May 18 students no longer had to wear masks outside even if distancing could not be maintained. Adults still need to wear masks outside if distancing cannot be maintained. Masks will be required for all while indoors. Gathering limits for outdoor events will be lifted as of May 29. Governor Baker had announced that the state of emergency would be lifted on June 15. Proulx said she reached out to the head of the subcommittee on policy to amend the Covid policies appropriately. Proulx said that as of right now they are not anticipating a change to the policy that requires students and adults to wear masks while inside the school prior to the end of the school year. Proulx pointed out that sometimes the broader public implications do not always apply to schools as they must account for not only the Governor’s mandates but the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) determinations as well.
Director of Business Services Christine Healy provided an update on the financials saying that while there were a number of deficits there were also a number of surpluses that would likely weigh each other out. Healy said she was surprised to see that the only utilities deficit was for gas at the high school. She found this surprising given the number of air purifiers and other items running due to the pandemic. Healy noted that the schools were still waiting for reimbursements for CARES Act funding from the towns.
Assistant Superintendent Ryan Lynch began his update by saying that principals, coordinators, and department heads are beginning work on summer curriculum. He said that teachers and coordinators are also working on a new K-5 ELA program. Regarding professional development, Lynch said they have their diversity, equity and inclusion working group continuing their work that was started over the winter. “The goal of this working group is to eventually design diversity, equity, and inclusion professional development for our schools,” he explained.
Superintendent Proulx also presented. “Despite the FAQ’s that came out earlier this week and the Governor’s announcement about the COVID related restrictions ending on May 29, one thing that is going to remain in place is that all of the federal U.S. Department of Agricultural school meal flexibilities that were announced on April 20 are still going to remain in place through June 30, 2022,” Proulx said. She also mentioned that youths over 12 years of age are now eligible to be vaccinated. Proulx also spoke about the grant opportunities that are available for summer programming to support the needs of the students that may have arisen over the last year or two. One such program is the Accelerated Learning Academy. The program is intended to help those students entering Grades 3-6 most affected by COVID 19. There will also be a Silver Lake Middle School Enhancement program for students entering Grades 7 and 8. There will be another program to ensure students with disabilities will not fall behind.
Silver Lake Education Association President John Lay spoke briefly. Lay said he wanted to acknowledge on behalf of the SLEA the tremendous amount of work that went into getting kids and teachers back in school full-time in a very short amount of time. He also said that he really appreciated the school encouraging kids aged 12 and up to get vaccinated. Committee member Summer Schmaling took issue, however, with the idea that the schools would be encouraging students to get vaccinated. “Something he said really struck me; encouraging students to get vaccinated, that is not our role as a school to be doing that. I have an issue with that; I’m trying to speak without coming across emotionally…. I think it’s out of line for our teachers and our staff to be having that conversation with minors,” she explained. Proulx clarified that the school nurse is putting together an informational packet to be distributed directly to parents.
Hatch pointed out to the other members that Halifax did not support the regional budget at their town meeting though Plympton did. Andrews clarified that if two towns vote no to the regional budget, the School Committee must reconvene to present another budget and the towns would have 30 days to hold another town meeting. Kingston did, in fact, vote through the Silver Lake Regional budget during their town meeting on Saturday, May 22.
As it was Andrews’ last Regional School Committee meeting, Hatch said, “We have to bid farewell… I just feel the need to say, you have been a tremendous asset to this Committee; your Finance Committee background coupled with your ability to just think outside the box has been overwhelmingly beneficial to this Committee… I’m going to miss your wisdom and I’m going to miss your humor both and I can’t thank you enough for having been on this Committee.” Additionally, School Committee secretary Lisa Turcotte is retiring. Hatch said, “Lisa you have been such a wealth of knowledge as well; you’re sort of like the historical gatekeeper of so many pieces of knowledge of this district… you’ve been absolutely wonderful to work with.”