School Committee logoThe goal is to protect staffing levels on all campuses.

-- Dr. Homan

UPDATED June 1: With Covid-19 cases generally down in town and in the Arlington Public Schools, the temporary indoor mask mandate recently imposed at some APS campuses has been lifted. Menotomy Preschool will continue with its ongoing mandatory indoor masking given that most pupils are ineligible for vaccination because of their age.

The district continues to adjust its pandemic practices based on all available data, with the goal to preserve as much normality as possible. For instance, Arlington High School recently was able to have a “spectacular prom,” Superintendent Elizabeth Homan said, with attendees providing negative tests shortly beforehand.

Mandatory indoor masking at any given campus is “a last resort” after implementing other mitigation strategies, she said, because mask-wearing is known to help significantly in an outbreak. The APS definition of an outbreak is when 4 to 5 percent of an entire campus tests positive within a period of three to five days.

The goal is to protect staffing levels on all campuses and “to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Homan told the School Committee at its regular meeting Thursday, May 26. The following policies now apply:

  • No pooled testing will be conducted during the last week of instruction;
  • Close contacts of those known to be infected no longer must stay home, rather, they are to mask for 10 days, with testing recommended at day five;
  • The “test-to-return” policy for infected persons quarantining at home is recommended but not required for those who are both asymptomatic and wearing masks; and
  • The district plans to survey families to gauge interest in having an on-campus vaccination clinic for children ages 5 to 12.

See detailed information related to the ongoing pandemic, both recent and historic >> 

Exton speaks briefly about Texas

As the meeting started, Committee Chair Liz Exton spoke briefly about the assault-rifle massacre of 19 elementary-school students and two teachers in the small town of Uvalde, Texas, two days previously.

“I am a teacher, a parent and a School Committee member,” Exton said. “I feel [this tragedy] with every piece of my being. We can and must do better for our children.”

She then called for a moment of silence. No one else at the meeting spoke about what had happened Tuesday May 24: the nation’s worst on-campus mass murder since the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, which took 26 lives, 20 of them those of young children. On Wednesday May 25, Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty released this comprehensive statement online to describe how local law-enforcement presence on campus is being temporarily increased as a prudent measure even though no local threats are known. On Friday May 26, YourArlington requested and received information about APS' ongoing emergency preparedness policies and practices

Summer school expands its programming

With a boost from pandemic-related federal funding, APS will offer more options for summer study than in the recent past: some remote, some on campus and some with both options. In a detailed report made available in advance of the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Roderick MacNeal Jr. described what is available for those who choose to take advantage of it. He noted that all figures concerning expected participants are projections. See the agenda document >> 

Those invited to participate are students expected to benefit from additional instruction. Some programs are for those with individual education plans, some for English language learners and others for students covered by Title 1 services; Title 1 is a long-standing federal funding program at campuses in which at least 40 percent of students are from low-income households. MacNeal said he was happy that some summer-school availability now extends to non-Title 1 areas.

Committee members seemed generally pleased. Exton was glad that ELL instruction is to be in person. Len Kardon asked about and was told that staffing – in sharp contrast to a year ago – is not expected to be a problem. Kirsi Allison-Ampe was concerned that certain aspects of the class scheduling might pose an impediment to some families; MacNeal replied that current plans are “a work in progress” and “not perfect.”

In other business:
  • Homan shared the draft version of a district vision statement, noting that this verbiage – as opposed to that of a mission statement – refers to an “aspirational future state” of being. The text so far: “Create a connected and inclusive educational community where all learners feel a sense of belonging, experience joy and growth, and are empowered to determine their own futures.” The creation of a vision statement is just one aspect of a much larger ongoing strategic planning process. See the agenda documents >> 
  • The committee voted, 7-0, to approve a memorandum of agreement with the Arlington Education Association’s Unit A, to run from August 2022 to August 2024. Unit A covers licensed educators such as teachers, counselors, nurses, special education service providers, social workers and instructional coaches.AEA Second Vice President Jenna Fernandes said at the meeting that AEA had ratified it earlier in the day. Responding to a question from YourArlington, AEA President Julianna Keyes provided this comment May 31: "We are proud of the equity improvements and salary increases, though they fail to even come close to the current inflation rates. We appreciate the partnership of the APS administration and School Committee in improving working and learning conditions in our schools." See the document here >>
  • The vote was unanimous for the revamped job description for the new position of DEI specialist; DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. Per the committee’s request two weeks prior, the current job description now contains expanded language on disability and anti-ableism. See the description >> 
  • APS recently hired Kim Visco as its districtwide wellness director. Meanwhile, recruitment has just begun for assistant principal at Stratton Elementary School, as Erin Spinney recently resigned, Homan said.
  • Committee member Paul Schlichtman presented a proposed resolution for the annual delegate assembly of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, or MASC. It would seek to limit the maximum time of receivership -- a practice by which the commonwealth takes over school districts it considers to be failing -- to three years, and also asks that receivership be lifted by July 1, 2023, on Holyoke, Lawrence and Southbridge, which have been devoid of local control for far longer. Jeff Thielman said that the provision within the proposed resolution concerning the three municipalities was presumptuous given that the specifics of those three cases remain unknown to the Arlington School Committee. The vote was split, 4-3, with Exton, Schlichtman, Allison-Ampe and Bill Hayner in favor, but Thielman, Kardon and Jane Morgan opposed. See the agenda documents >> 
  • Thielman reported that the AHS Building Committee is set to meet June 7 and that the ongoing reconstruction of that campus is “moving along on budget and on time.”
  • Morgan, regarding the curriculum, instruction, accountability and assessment subcommittee, said she was pleased that some eighth graders plan to attend a CIAA meeting as part of their civics action projects.  
  • Hayner said he recently had observed several third-grade classes conducting mock Town Meetings and said he believes that they “do it much better than the regular [and still ongoing] Town Meeting – clean and concise.”
  • The two student representatives to School Committee, AHS students Amy Chelariu and Megan Carmody, were thanked for their service. They said that they had learned a lot and enjoyed the opportunity to serve.
  • Less than 24 hours before the meeting, the School Committee pivoted from its recently adopted hybrid mode --convening in person with proceedings viewable online -- to all remote. Asked about this Friday afternoon May 27, Exton responded via email as follows: "For various pandemic-related reasons a number of School Committee members, including me, needed to attend last night's meeting remotely. In the interest of conducting our School Committee business as efficiently as possible, I made the decision to move the meeting to entirely remote. We expect to be back in a hybrid model for our June 9 meeting."
  • The committee went into closed session at 8:13 p.m. with no report of action expected.

May 14, 2016: Public schools restore indoor-mask rule; DEI job on hold

  


This summary by YourArlington freelance writer Judith Pfeffer was published Friday, May 27, 2022, and updated that same day to include an explanation for the May 26 meeting being all-remote, to clarify the MASC resolution, to add a link to a recent statement from Arlington's police chief and to provide facts about longstanding APS policies on responding to on-campus emergencies of all types. It was then further updated June 1 to specify what employee categories the recently approved agreement covers, and also to add a comment provided May 31 by union president Julianna Keyes.

Donate button, 300pxThis reporting demonstrates your donations at work to support democracy here.YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.Your contributions are tax-deductible. Donate here >>