Halifax School Committee Catches up During Pandemic
The Halifax School Committee met virtually on Monday, May 11. Chair Summer Schmaling began with correspondence from Silver Lake Regional School Committee Chair Jason Fraser (who is also vice chair of the Plympton School Committee) asking if they would support him in his bid for treasurer/secretary on the Massachusetts Association of School Committee (MASC) Executive Board. Just as the Regional School Committee did, the Halifax Committee also voted unanimously to do so.
The Committee then provided reports for each of the standing sub committees. Superintendent Jill Proulx spoke on behalf of Policy saying that while they do have a list of recommendations from MASC, policy updates have not been a priority given recent changes to the remote learning plan. Negotiations said that they voted earlier that evening and plan to reach out to both the Halifax Teacher’s Association and the Halifax Custodial Negotiations Team to setup a remote meeting for further negotiating. Committee member Alison Vance said that PAC has continued meeting and that chromebooks were rolled out to students. Regarding Youth and Rec, Schmaling said, “Clearly they’re kind of at a stand still themselves and not really sure what the summer will hold.” Union 31 had not met. Capital Budget also had not met though it was noted that the budget is obviously in flux.
Principal Kayne Beaudry provided an update on the remote learning plan. “I want to give kudos to our teachers. They have really jumped in and have been working with adapting and changing up their game plan every week; we feel that the plans are getting better and better,” he explained. Beaudry said that student engagement has been the top priority for the last few weeks. Families that have been flagged as needing extra help keeping up with engagement have been placed on a watch list.
Beaudry also mentioned that per state guidelines, teachers have been transitioning from just assigning work to focusing on prerequisite standards. “I do want to give a little plug to our specialist teachers,” Beaudry said. He noted the unique difficulties faced by this set of teachers as they see seven different grade levels. “They have really done a nice job on scaling back and listening to our families and making it as user-friendly as possible,” he continued.
Beaudry also spoke from personal experience, saying that he has his own children from preschool to middle school that are being homeschooled. He noted the inherent difficulties in remote learning especially for those in the younger grades.
Enrollment for the incoming kindergarten class is currently hovering around 78 students compared to the current kindergarten’s class of 64. Committee member Gordon Andrews told Beaudry he had seen some questions online regarding the kindergarten registration process. Beaudry said that the school has been working behind the scenes to address things like orientation for parents and screenings for students. Andrews also said that he has seen a number of questions from parents and other guardians regarding the required medical records as scheduling doctor’s appointments has become difficult given the pandemic. Beaudry said that the school nurse as well as the administrators are aware that there will be a backlog for medical records and said there will be a grace period for obtaining those records.
Proulx and Assistant Superintendent Ryan Lynch said that they have been meeting with union leadership, department heads, curriculum coordinators, and building principals regarding the remote learning plan.
Lynch said that they have been favoring asynchronous learning over synchronous learning as it allows families to go back and access lessons when convenient for them. Andrews said that the Committee wanted to express their thanks to the administrators and teachers for their hard work during unprecedented times. Proulx was quick to mention that thanks should also be extended to Director of Business Services Christine Healy. Proulx joked that she has been asking Healy “a million budget questions every day.”
As of right now, the anticipated last day of school is June 19.