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Safety prime topic at School Committee meeting

by | Jun 10, 2022 | Education, Featured: Education, Police & Fire

School safety, the contract for nurses and the Elmwood School building project were among the topics on the Hopkinton School Committee agenda on Thursday night.

With the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, still weighing on people’s minds, Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh reviewed a June 7 presentation by the town’s emergency personnel that defined expectations for teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators in the event of an intruder.

She noted the layers of protection in place such as a school safety task force, incident command center and crisis response team whose members each know what their roles are in the event of an active shooter.

In addition, Cavanaugh said, they can do threat assessments to offer support to students who seem to be “downtrodden,” or demonstrating alarming behavior. There also is ALICE training as well as drills for all staff taking place.

Other measures include cameras in schools, double-entry security and locked interior and exterior doors. She also said staff must wear identification at all times.

Police and fire personnel can access the school cameras and see what’s going on inside the buildings even from cruisers, Cavanaugh added.

She also relayed police, even a single officer, are trained to enter the building and not wait for backup with the intent to neutralize a threat. The estimated response time of police to schools is three minutes.

“When people left [the presentation], they felt there’s a really solid plan in place,” Cavanaugh said.

School Committee Chair Nancy Cavanaugh said, “It’s a little chilling” to try to imagine something like that happening in Hopkinton.

Nurses contract ratified

The committee ratified a three-year contract for the Hopkinton Teachers Association (HTA) Unit C, which is the nurses union.

The contract, covering 2022-25, contains cost of living increases of 4 percent in the first year and 3 percent in the second and third years. The board also approved an additional agreement giving a one-time bonus of $2,000 for efforts during the pandemic.

Although contact tracing and other pandemic measures are not anticipated in the next year, the committee approved a memorandum of understanding just in case whereby nurses would receive 1 1/2 times their hourly pay for work conducted outside of the school day.

The pact also has provisions allowing them to carry a single personal day from one year to another. They will also receive two additional bereavement days off for someone close to them who doesn’t fall into the immediate family.

“We really value our nurses and want to make sure they are paid equitably and we retain them,” the superintendent said. “I’d be heartbroken if they went anywhere except to retirement.”

Elmwood School replacement planning continues

During an update on the Elmwood School building project, Superintendent Cavanaugh noted the deadline for designer proposals is June 15. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is expected to approve a designer on July 19.

She said Compass Project Management and the designer will help the district with looking for a site, weighing whether different school grade configurations are feasible and looking at things like effects on traffic, town permitting, site acquisition and planning and flexibility for future growth.

The superintendent said the district population is now 4,100, but projections for 10 years forward predict growth to just under 5,000 students. She said the main goal is to determine how to maximize funding to get the most “educationally sound” facility.

Carol Cavanaugh added that engagement with community members about the Elmwood School project will start in August. Numerous forums and presentations are expected to gain feedback.

Assistant superintendent search underway

In other business, the committee named Holly Morand to the Assistant Superintendent Search Committee. She will make site visits to the top candidates’ districts on June 17. The field has been narrowed from six candidates to three and could be cut further before the visit date, according to Cavanaugh.

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Parson is leaving to become superintendent for Plainville Public Schools. Cavanaugh praised her assistant, calling her a “master grant writer” and “right hand to principals.”

She said Parson is leaving the position “better than she found it” four years ago when she took the job. Cavanaugh joked that she was going to save Parson’s name plate in case she decided to ever come back.

Parson said she was part of an “amazing team” with whom she was privileged to work.

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