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School Committee roundup: Public forums scheduled for Elmwood School replacement project

by | Aug 23, 2022 | Education, Featured: Education

Grade configurations and a timetable for public forums related to the Elmwood School replacement project were topics of discussion during Monday’s School Committee meeting.

The schedule was featured during a further review of Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh’s goals, which likely will be voted on during a September board meeting.

Earlier, committee member Jennifer Devlin described the project’s design firm of Perkins Eastman as “forward thinking.” She noted that during a building committee session, “they came in very prepared on how to inform the public.”

Speaking about a goal to address enrollment growth, Cavanaugh said a lot of research had to be done about grade configuration during the process.

The decision about the Elmwood School replacement project includes a determination whether to keep the potential new school for Grades 2 and 3 or have Grade 4 added.

Enrollment also has an impact on higher grades. The superintendent said “numbers are peaking” at Hopkins School and steps are being taken such as having “art on a cart” because art rooms had to be transformed into classrooms.

Cavanaugh’s goal includes helping the School Committee understand how enrollment configurations would be handled logistically in terms of transportation, programming, cafeteria schedules, etc.

During future board meetings, the superintendent will give 20-minute updates on the progress of the project.

The dates for community forums include Sept. 19 for a kickoff session; Oct. 4 about existing conditions; Nov. 2 concerning vision and grade configurations; and Dec. 7 on sites/options and traffic.

The School Committee is expected to make a decision on grade configurations and the preferred option in January 2023.

Some of the sessions may be offered virtually and/or recorded for later watching.

Wetlands restoration, Marathon addition addressed

In other business, the board learned that Flynn Enterprises was the accepted vendor to handle wetlands restoration at the high school. The total cost of the work is $126,887. Town Meeting approved $60,000 in May. An additional $40,000 was approved more than 20 years ago.

Cavanaugh said the balance could come out of either the athletic or building use revolving funds. The plantings are expected to take place this fall, with the type of plants dictated by the wetlands, she said.

The board also formally voted to approve the transfer of $850,000 from its Stabilization Fund to the construction account for the Marathon School project. Special Town Meeting approved the measure on Aug. 18.

School Committee members expressed appreciation for all the voters who turned out to approve the transfer. Vice Chair Amanda Fargiano also thanked other boards, including the Select Board, for their cooperation and support.

Bullying to be future topic

Committee member Holly Morand asked that the topic of bullying be put on a future agenda.

She said it is important to talk to parents about what bullying looks like in the district, what processes are in place to address it and how to become more transparent.

Morand noted that last year’s numbers of 15 total cases investigated and eight substantiated bullying instances are very low. She said aggregated research studies usually agree that 20 percent of students in a district are bullied.

Devlin talked about the fact that the state definition for bullying is used but said it is “narrowly defined.” She said it would be a good idea for parents to know more about how the district “fosters an environment” to minimize bullying.

Chair Nancy Cavanaugh pointed out that just because the state definition may not classify an incident as bullying, “that doesn’t mean something wrong wasn’t done.”

Morand said sometimes bullying is not reported because people are not aware of or do not understand the process. She said there are new families in town who may be less familiar with the school system.

Committee members also noted that the town and schools are becoming more diverse.

“As diversity grows, bullying typically grows as well,” Morand said.

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