The Halifax School Committee met on Tuesday, Oct. 12. A parent asked to speak during the public participation portion of the meeting. She began by saying how thankful she was to the school committee members for donating their time and said that she hoped that her comments that night did not diminish the thanks that she does have toward them.
“As a fairly new parent in the district, I was, to say the least, shocked at the Aug. 30 school committee meeting. If I were to be honest, I was a little bit embarrassed… there was little compassion, not a lot of kindness, and barely any respect between members,” she said. She explained that she was disappointed to see the school committee members not display the same qualities that she tries to instill in her children. She said that her public comments were not really regarding masks or no masks though she acknowledged that her first grade child took no exception to wearing one.
A PTO update was provided. The Boosterthon/Fun Run raised $33,905. Halifax Elementary School Principal Kayne Beaudry said it was their most successful yet. Those funds will be divided among the Nature’s Classroom and the Kindergarten Playground. For the first time in a while, there is finally a fully staffed PTO Board. The Book Fair will be October 25 – October 29. There will be information released regarding the use of something called an E-Wallet in lieu of money due to COVID.
Beaudry provided an update saying that enrollment was holding steady. He pointed out that for the first time ever the kindergarten class started a week after other students in order to leave time for screenings, open houses, etc. Beaudry said that he and Assistant Principal Brian Desantes rode the bus with students for the start of school. He said that the open house was the first time in a year and a half that parents were welcomed into the building. “There was a good vibe,” Beaudry said, despite it being hot. Beaudry recognized that October is Bullying Awareness month.
Beaudry told the board that Desantes has been dressing up as a school mascot for Halifax Hero in a superhero costume complete with a new fanny pack. He said that students are recognized each month for demonstrating the traits that are taught in the classroom such as kindness and resilience. Students are awarded hero bands from Desantes. “He does take on the role very well,” Beaudry said laughing of Desantes.
Beaudry also told the Committee that fall conferences will be held on Oct. 27. He said they will be offering both remote as well as in-person options for parents. He said the remote option was being made available due to the excellent turnout the previous year. “We’re excited to be able to offer that,” he said.
Assistant Superintendent Ryan Lynch gave an update on the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and how they have been spent thus far for Halifax. “Some of those things are just communication pieces – tools to help support teachers make interactive presentations, some professional development about teaching remotely… and some technology pieces,” Lynch said of ESSER I. For ESSER II, Lynch said that Halifax was allocated $106,000. He said that under half of that money has been allocated to date. Lynch said they were still identifying needs for this school year. A certain percentage of that money needs to be allocated for use on social and emotional learning. The ESSER III allocation for Halifax will be for $225,000.
Committee member Lauren Laws asked if there was a way to parse out how much of the budget was being spent on COVID related items. Superintendent Jill Proulx said that they have been tracking COVID related expenses noting that the primary categories were PPE, HVAC, and technology needs.
Lynch also provided an update for the Halifax MCAS results. He said compared to previous years they had a much wider timeline to administer the test, it was half as long, and students were able to take it remotely. Lynch said that statewide, 20 percent of students took it remotely. He said participation both statewide and in Halifax stood at 90 percent. Lynch said that students in Halifax performed better than the statewide comparison. He said that subject level data would be evaluated by teachers.
Superintendent Proulx began her update by thanking the Halifax Fire Department for their help with administering the test and stay program that allows close contacts to stay in school as long as they remain asymptomatic. Proulx said the intent is to prevent students from needing to quarantine. Should the need arise, Proulx said they could potentially enlist the National Guard to assist in the test and stay program. Proulx said the mask mandate has been extended until at least November 1.
Proulx said that Halifax enrollment stands at 564 students compared to last year’s enrollment of 569. She said that the Halifax assessment has increased this year from 30.7 percent to 30.8.