First positive COVID case detected through pool testing | News | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly
TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury School Committee met on April 18, 2021 for a virtual meeting via WebEx, joined by newly elected members Bridget Garabedian and Nicholas Parsons.
The committee first entered into executive session.
The committee reorganized as is customary following the April 10 town election.
Superintendent Chris Malone oversaw the process. Keith Sullivan was reelected as chair, Shannon Demos was elected as vice chair, and Bridget Garabedian was elected as clerk.
The committee recognized and congratulated the Tewksbury winners of the VFW 2021 Patriot Pen and Voice of Democracy contests. Kevin Daigle of the Ryan school placed third at the district level, and Christopher Rabideau, also of the Ryan, placed sixth at the state level. Brooke Bunyan, a tenth grader at TMHS, placed fourth at the state level.
Malone asked the committee and community to keep Methuen teacher Brianna McCarthy in their thoughts as she faced a severe and sudden illness. McCarthy is the assistant coach of the Tewksbury-Methuen Red Rangers hockey team, which won the 2019 Division 1 State Hockey Championship.
“She’s had quite an impact on our student athletes at the hospital… I think as a community we should join in wishing her all the best in her recovery,” he said.
(Eds. note: McCarthy passed away on April 15 at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston at the age of 30)
In his superintendent and staff report, Malone told the committee that the district saw its first positive case detected through newly implemented pool testing. The district was able to retest the students in the pool to isolate the positive case.
Malone asked families to exercise caution and good judgement over April vacation and implored them to observe travel advisories.
Malone noted a recent water leak at TMHS; rather than losing the day, students and teachers pivoted online. Malone thanked staff and the maintenance team for their quick work to avoid a disruption in learning.
Malone also reported that AlphaBest will be starting up before and after school programming following April vacation in the school buildings, and is currently planning for summer programming.
Malone said that while many teachers have been partially vaccinated, the district is still working to vaccinate as many eligible educators as possible.
Assistant superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan reviewed recent guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary education regarding non-athletic student groups, volunteering, and end-of-year activities. Meetings and events should be held virtually whenever possible, and groups must abide by indoor and outdoor capacity limits.
According to DESE, “prom is inherently a high risk activity,” and the department strongly encourages districts to not hold such events this year. Theriault-Regan said that the district will continue planning and discussion on end-of-year activities for seniors, but reminded parents that everything is subject to modification as guidance changes.
Theriault-Regan also noted that the district will be hosting a virtual art show for the second year, which may be viewed at youtube.com/TewksburyTV. She also reminded the community that the district is in need of substitute teachers, including licensed nurses; the application is on the district website.
Business manager Dave Libby highlighted a recent personal protective equipment donation from Ocean State Job Lot, which will be used for sanitizing cafeterias and other spaces.
Libby gave the committee a final overview of the recommended school budget for FY22. The committee voted to approve the budget.
Theriault-Regan updated the committee on changes to MCAS testing. Remote students in grades 3-8 will have a remote testing option, but students in grades 9-10 will need to test in person and pass in order to meet state competency determinations.
Education commissioner Jeff Riley has recommended that students in grade 11 not be required to make up missed testing from tenth grade; however, students who seek eligibility for the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship will be required to pass the test.
Malone updated the committee on the current COVID-19 situation in the district. Malone said the district was “in the yellow” and the total number of cases had increased slightly, remaining steadily in double digits. He noted that the change to 3-foot distancing will increase chances for a greater number of close contacts.
The state has extended free pool testing through August.
The district is currently tweaking protocols for middle and high school students to return full in-person on April 28.
“This is like the start of a new school year in many ways,” he said.
Malone added that he hoped the district would be providing more guidance in the intervening weeks; the schools have started putting up tents and planning for the increased number of students.
In new business, the committee voted to approve June 16 as the last day of school and voted not to participate in school choice for the 2021-2022 school year. The committee also reviewed dates for their 2022 meeting calendar.
The next meeting is scheduled for May 12, 2021. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on the meeting agenda as posted on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 22 and Verizon channel 34.