The June 3 Plympton School Committee meeting began with a reorganization. Jason Fraser nominated Jon Wilhelmsen to once again serve as chair and it was voted through unanimously as was Fraser’s nomination for vice chair. A unanimous vote also declared Michael Antoine as the new secretary. Congratulations were also extended to the committee’s newest member Amy Hempel.
Dennett Elemetary School Principal Peter Veneto was unable to attend the meeting so Superintendent Joy Blackwood gave an update on the ongoing issue with the water testing at the school. The most recent results were still showing lead levels that are too high. Veneto forwarded the results to Greenseal but is waiting to hear back from them. Wilhelmsen plans to follow up with Veneto and then have a call with Greenseal directly.
The committee feels strongly that the problem is likely with the system as lead is not present when entering the system but is present when coming out the other end of the faucets. Adding to the confusion, the faucets have all been replaced and the lead is being found in the part of the school where the pipes the water is traveling through are from the last renovation.
Wilhelmsen said, “The lead has to be being introduced between where it comes in and where its being sent out from the pipes.” Wilhelmsen continued, “The lead should either be in the water before it comes in because it just has a higher level or it is leaching because of the acidity of the water as it goes through and each time it hits a solder point in the lead solder it is taking a little bit of it with it, but we shouldn’t have any lead solder and in the places where it is, there shouldn’t be any and we’ve replaced all the faucets so the only thing is, we’re back to the system.”
The system has a treatment for manganese as well as a PH adjustor to make the water less acidic and should therefore leach less metal from everything. The system should also be equipped to deal with lead as there was a one-off lead test several years back showing higher than expected levels. Wilhelmsen and Blackwood were in agreement that too much time and expense has already gone into this problem for there to still be no resolution.
Fraser gave an update on the project to renovate the playground at Dennett for accessibility and safety. Fraser thanked the Community Preservation Committee for giving their support to an article that was brought forth at town meeting for an additional $94,000 toward the playground. The Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, and School Committee all supported that article at town meeting.
“On the floor the night of town meeting having unanimous vote to support the playground really shows that the entire community supports the initiative,” Fraser said. Halifax Elementary Principal Kayne Beaudry reached out with ideas and offers to help with the planning process as Halifax recently completed work on their own playground.
Parents with expertise and experience in the field have also volunteered to serve as assistant project managers. Private donors have also come forward with in kind donations.
Wilhelmsen mentioned a general desire from the public, as shared on social media, to not see the dinosaur from the playground hauled away to be used as scrap metal.
Given the nostalgia that seems to surround the dinosaur, the committee suggested possibly auctioning it off or preserving it as a statue of some sort at the school. Best case scenario for completion of the playground would be September, but Fraser acknowledged that they are moving forward cautiously and mindfully to ensure the best possible end result.
The May 23 joint regional school committee meeting was also discussed as was the superintendent search. Fraser mentioned the outstanding response thus far to the superintendent criteria survey that is open to the public.
Over 700 responses have been recorded thus far with parents, staff members, and other Plympton residents offering their thoughts and opinions on questions ranging from what issues are most important in the district to what qualities will make for the best superintendent. The survey will remain open throughout the summer as the search begins for Blackwood’s replacement.
Director of Business Services Christine Healy gave the financial report. With only a few weeks left in the school year, there are only a few deficits that will be absorbed by categories where there is a surplus.
Healy, who referred to the financials as “an amazing puzzle” also stated that a balance of approximately $21,700 will be returned to the town at the close of July.
Fraser thanked Healy for her hard work and reiterated, “So, we’ll be able to absorb any deficits in the budget and we’re still returning money to the town?”
“Yes,” Healy confirmed. The committee also approved the 2019-2020 elementary operating budget of $2,454,774 as well as the elementary special education budget of $1,084,164.