The Silver Lake Regional School Committee met virtually on Thursday, Oct. 1. The committee was told that there were two positive cases of COVID-19 in the district, one in the middle school and another at the high school. Building principals had already sent out notifications as of last Thursday’s meeting. Principals worked with the school nurses and Boards of Health regarding the notification of close contacts. Superintendent Jill Proulx said that she also sent out a notification on October 1 that included reminders about effective practices for reducing the spread of the virus. Chair of the school committee Paula Hatch said, “I hope they have a speedy recovery and we wish them well.”
Much of the relatively short meeting was spent discussing what share of the three towns’ CARES Act funding has been used for school related purposes. Committee member Laura Tilton said she would like to see a running list of what had been purchased with CARES Act funding for the towns of Kingston, Plympton, and Halifax as well as what had been purchased for the region. “I think that would be helpful just to sort of make us feel good that there are things that the money has been spent on,” Tilton explained. While one was not readily available, it was said that they would try to compile the list.
Director of Business Services Christine Healy said, “All of the three towns have been very willing to work with the elementary communities… there’s just a little disconnect between the region and the towns.” Healy did note that Kingston was looking to pay some invoices for school related expenses, which she said she had sent that that day. Committee member Eric Crone said he had spoken with the town of Kingston and noted that the schools account for fifty percent of the town’s budget and should receive a proportionate amount of the CARES Act funds designated for Kingston.
Proulx noted that there have been several COVID-related expenses for the schools that have been sent in for reimbursement. “I don’t want that to get lost in the shuffle that we are making purchases,” Proulx explained. Chromebooks, additional staff including maintenance personnel, and cleaning supplies were amongst those listed by Proulx. Halifax selectmen previously voted to use a portion of their town’s CARES Act funds to pay for the additional maintenance workers at Halifax Elementary School, Silver Lake Regional Middle School, and Silver Lake Regional High School per the request of Director of Facilities Matthew Durkee.
Crone said he wanted to take a moment to recognize the efforts of Durkee saying, “He’s really stepped up and really done quite a bit to get our schools ready and continues to be responsive… I just really think he deserves a pat on the back.” School committee member as well as Halifax selectman Gordon Andrews made a point to second what Crone was saying of Durkee.
At last month’s school committee meeting, the region voted to send letters to the Boards of Selectmen as well as the Finance Committees of the three towns asking them to allocate the proportionate amount of CARES Act funds received for use by the region to reimburse Covid-19 expenses. Since those letters went unrecognized, the committee decided that a better approach might be to plan a small group meeting with the town administrators, Healy, and possibly some members of the regional school committee. Hatch said the intention would be to get a proportional commitment discussed and agreed to by the towns. Hatch did note that the letter to Halifax included an acknowledgment and “thank you” for their funding of two long term substitute positions, one for each school.
The refunding of the school’s debt was also discussed at Thursday’s meeting. Healy and Lisa Lombard led the discussion. Back in 2015, some bonds from 2009 were refunded and with rates low, it is now a good time to refund more bonds from 2010. Doing so required a vote of the committee to approve reward of the bonds to JP Morgan Chase. The vote was unanimously in favor.
Finally, the committee voted to approve the donation of surplus culinary equipment. While cleaning out their stockpile the CT department found equipment that was no longer needed by the schools. The hope is to make it available to the three towns’ senior centers.