Superintendent: District, teachers union ‘working really hard’ to finalize agreement

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Representatives for the Hopkinton Teachers Association and the school department have been “working really hard’’ on negotiations for a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the new school year, superintendent Carol Cavanaugh told School Committee members Thursday.

Two of the major issues under discussion include whether teachers will be required to teach onsite if the district goes to remote learning and whether lessons will be livestreamed, Cavanaugh said.

Since Aug. 13, 16 hours of negotiations have been scheduled, including two set for Friday morning, she said.

About half of the state’s districts have not yet submitted an MOA, she said she was told by the state’s education commissioner, Jeffrey Riley. Based on that figure, “We’re not in a bad place in terms of timing,’’ she noted.

She said she is “hopeful” that an agreement will be reached. “We’re all still coming to the table and negotiating in good faith,’’ she said.

Schedules for the new school year will be sent out Tuesday, she said.

The hybrid green cohort is scheduled to start school Sept. 16. The orange cohort begins the next day.

Bus schedules also are still being completed.

The committee also unanimously agreed to fund the equivalent of 2.2 full-time teaching positions and three paraprofessional positions for the high school.

The additional teaching staff would ensure that classroom sizes allow for safe social distancing, high school principal Evan Bishop said.

Paraprofessional positions are needed in classrooms where educators will be teaching remotely because of ADA accommodations, Bishop said. The paraprofessionals would provide in-classroom support for students during these situations.

The money would be funded through the CARES Act, director of finance Susan Rothermich said. This funding must be used by Dec. 31, but a statewide effort is underway to extend the deadline to accommodate the school year dates, she added.

Bishop acknowledged this school year has created some “anxiety’’ and would be “different’’ and “very challenging.’’

But he praised teachers for their “positive spirit’’ in unprecedented times.

“I’m excited for the new school year,’’ he said. “We’re off to a great start.’’

Cavanaugh also presented her goals for the school year to the committee.

They include:

In response to COVID-19, creating a three-contingency strategic plan to be submitted to the state and to the community, with the primary focus on improving access and achievement for all students based on where the district was in the spring.

Moving the district toward greater proficiency in diversity, equality, inclusion, social justice and anti-racism.

Addressing enrollment growth and building use and expansion throughout the district, resulting in a three- to five-year plan.

Continuing to grow communication between families and the superintendent and to grow relationships with elected officials.

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