AHS to follow at date to be determined

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'We are not thinking of applying for a waiver.'
-- Superintendent Kathleen Bodie

UPDATED, March 30: Arlington middle-schoolers will study on campus full time starting Tuesday, April 27, the School Committee decided Thursday, March 25. The vote was 6-0, with Kirsi Allison-Ampe absent.

On April 26, employees at Gibbs School and Ottoson Middle School plan to be on their respective campuses completing plans for five-day-a-week in-person instruction, the committee also decided.

Elementary campuses will be back to traditional instruction April 5, with Arlington High School to follow later in spring on a date yet to be chosen. In all cases, classroom desks will be three feet apart, with mask-wearing and all other anti-covid-19 protocols still required. For lunch, when students must doff their masks to eat, they are to remain at least six feet apart.

“We are not thinking of applying for a waiver” from the back-to-campus order issued by state authorities a few weeks ago, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said. Other districts in the state have received waivers, including Somerville.

Hybrid since last Sept. 21

Since the school year began, Sept. 21, most of Arlington’s public-school students have been in the hybrid program – two days on campus, three at home. On any given campus, the hybrid program will end when full-time instruction begins there. Some kids will be in the “all-remote academy by choice” until the school year ends, with that date currently projected to be June 24, Bodie said

“We are in a good place overall,” said Fabienne Pierre-Maxwell, principal of Gibbs School, which houses sixth graders. “I am very hopeful.” She is calling an optional informational meeting for parents on April 8 and will schedule tours on a voluntary basis for those students new to Gibbs soon thereafter “to make the students feel at ease.”

Based on surveys tabulated earlier in the day, she said, 26 families are switching from all-remote to completely on campus, while three will transition from hybrid to all-remote.

The situation at Ottoson Middle School, which educates seventh- and eighth-graders, is similar. There, some 30 students will transition from all-remote to full time on campus, with two going from hybrid to all-remote.

“We’re looking at this as a reopening,” said Principal Brian Meringer. “We’ve made some progress this week. The ventilation system is up to par.”

Lunch outdoors, if possible

Lunchtime will be 23 minutes, and it will be held outside if it is at least 50 degrees and not raining, he said. On inclement days, students will eat in one or both gymnasiums, which can be partitioned off as needed to keep cohorts together for health-and-safety reasons. The rest of the time, the gyms will be used for physical education, and some town fields will also be available for that purpose.

On the seven elementary campuses, 80 pupils will switch from all-remote to fully on campus, with two moving from hybrid to all-remote, said Bodie. 

See the agenda documents about the reopening plan >> 

In other business:

  • Summer school will be offered, with the program to be at least as large as that provided in summer 2020, Bodie said. Funding is not a big issue, especially with federal rescue-plan money expected though not yet received. A lot of core planning has already been done, according to Assistant Superintendent Roderick MacNeal Jr. “We’re not letting anyone slip through the cracks,” he said. “There will be something for everyone.”
  • The committee unanimously adopted the budget for the 2021-2022 school year, including 10 reserve teaching positions. The amount is $87,281,032, a 3.6-percent increase over the fiscal 21 budget of $84,271,998. See the budget document here >>
  • Arlington Public Schools will soon recruit for a new position: a districtwide post as director of diversity, equity and inclusion at a salary range of $105,000 to $115,000. See the document here >>
  • Bill Hayner moved to set the salary range at $105,000 to $125,000 -- higher than the administration had recommended -- noting that nearby Burlington had set starting pay at $120,000 for a comparable position. He called Arlington’s new post “unique” and said that “it will be highly sought-after.” The motion, to set the salary range slightly higher than the administration had recommended, passed, 4-2, with Len Kardon and Jeff Thielman voting against. 
  • The committee voted to support the previous vote of the EDCO Collaborative directors to dissolve that organization, effective June 30, 2021. Kardon abstained. See the agenda document >>  
  • The committee unanimously voted to add an extra, short meeting to its schedule, setting it for 7:30 p.m. Monday April 12, for the sole purpose of reorganizing officers among the seven-member body. 
  • The committee discussed the currently optional practice of “pool testing,” in which children self-administer the nasal-swab test; these are collected in one vial each from established classes, cohorts or learning communities and tested anonymously. Parental permission is required, participation currently averages 87 percent, and the process takes five minutes, “a minimal impact on learning time,” Bodie said. Committee Chair Jane Morgan said she would like to see participation top 90 percent. Hayner, Liz Exton and Paul Schlichtman expressed interest in finding out whether pool testing can be made mandatory, while Thielman cautioned that such a course of action would mean that “you do invite some opposition.”
  • The “Fall II” sports season at the high school is wrapping up soon, with some 250 student athletes having taken part, which Bodie called “terrific.” The spring season is to begin April 20, with even more participants expected, she said.
  • Judith Crocker, MBA, senior outreach coordinator, Massachusetts Safe Routes to Schools, gave a slideshow presentation on traffic control around campuses during the pandemic. She noted that Arlington is one of three districts chosen nationwide for a pilot program encouraging students to walk or bicycle to and from school, rather than be driven. See the report >>  
See the ACMi video of the March 25 meeting:

March 13, 2021: In 5-1-1 vote, board bows to state schedule for reopening schools

This news summary by YourArlington freelance journalist Judith Pfeffer was published Saturday, March 27, 2021, and updated March 30, to add ACMi video window.