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Bodie said the matter hinges on to how quickly teachers can be vaccinated.

UPDATED, Feb. 4: The 2021-22 school year aims to be completely in-person at all grade levels and will begin Wednesday, Sept. 8, the School Committee decided at its Thursday, Jan. 28, meeting in 4-3 vote.

That schedule depends on how inoculations for Covid-19 proceeds.

That date is two days after Labor Day and one day after the first day of the major Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. Voting no were Kirsi Allison-Ampe, Len Kardon and Bill Hayner, whose concerns had to do with Sept. 8 being the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Committee member Jeff Thielman made the motion; the vote was split, 4-3. Some committee members were concerned that the school start date would be the second day of Rosh Hashanah, while others plus Superintendent Kathleen Bodie noted that historically, relatively few families choose to keep their children out of school that day.

This was the first time that the School Committee and administration have publicly committed to Arlington Public Schools’ returning to traditional on-campus in-person learning after the pandemic closed schools to in-person learning last March.

“We are planning full in-person [instruction] next year,” Bodie said.

Julianna Keyes, president of the Arlington Education Association, attended but did not comment.

Calendar, budget schedules

The committee next month will adopt the entire 2021-2022 calendar, including setting the final date for instruction for the school year ending in June 2022.

See the draft calendar documents >>  

The next School Committee meeting, Feb. 11, will include the school-budget hearing, while the formal presentation of the school budget will be the next meeting after that, Feb. 25. The committee vote for these dates was unanimous, as was its vote to adopt the administration’s overall goals concerning the ongoing high-school reconstruction, ensuring campus infrastructure, including adequate ventilation and further developing the elementary-school curriculum.

See the budget calendar document >>  

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine has proposed more than $80 million for the school system in his fiscal 2022 budget plan

More in-class time for youngest pupils?

The idea of five-day-a-week, on-campus classes even before fall, at least for young children, was broached several times Thursday: by two parents during public comment, by Thielman and indirectly via results of an in-depth parent survey conducted in November, which was discussed at length. 

“K-2 is really struggling in a lot of ways,” said committee member Liz Exton.

Thielman said that many parents are “anxious and eager” to get students back on campus full time, especially in the preschool-through-second-grade population. He said he sought a way “to give people hope.”

Bodie said that the matter hinges on to how quickly teachers can be vaccinated against Covid-19. Her best estimate currently is late February or early March, but “uncertainty characterizes this year,” she said. “We need to be very flexible.”

The continuing pandemic and the relative scarcity of vaccinations continue to be serious issues in the community as a whole.  

Bodie said that elementary-school principals have discussed for the past two months the feasibility of bringing K-5 students to campus more than the two days a week allowed for in the hybrid model in use since September. 

She emphasized that at least until staff vaccinations can be completed, Arlington should continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control rule of keeping six feet between desks. That limits how many students can be in a room at any given time and in turn essentially prevents full-time on-campus instruction.

However, “There are districts that don’t have students six feet apart,” Thielman said.

Improving education for people of color

One of the other issues highlighted in the survey was the relative dissatisfaction of nonwhite families with many aspects of the school-learning climate.

One attempt to begin to grapple with that will start today, with minority teens who are members of the group Learning with Equity scheduled to meet with administrators. “We will take our cues from them,” said Sara Burd, the district’s director of social-emotional learning and school counseling.

Such measures are steps in the right direction, Assistant Superintendent Roderick MacNeal Jr. said, but Arlingtonians “must be careful not to over-simplify the solutions” to achieving parity for under-represented students. “We’re not going to dismantle institutional racism” quickly, MacNeal said, given that it has existed nationwide for centuries.

More about the survey

Opinions differed as to the value of the survey, which staff also have responded to and which is set to continue with responses sought from students in grades three through 12 next week.

One of the major findings – general dissatisfaction with hybrid learning -- “isn’t exactly headline news,” said committee member Paul Schlichtman. “I wouldn’t put too much stock in any one survey.”

Committee member Len Kardon said, “I don’t think it produced actionable information.”

However, Burd and MacNeal said that the survey was worthwhile and is to be repeated in June.

See the survey results >> 

See the ACMi video of the Jan. 28 meeting:

Jan. 15, 2021: Speed support for shots and testing, board urges state

This news summary by YourArlington freelance journalist Judith Pfeffer was published Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, and updated the same day, to add nay votes. Also updated Feb. 4, to add ACMi video window.