By JOSH RESNEK
The first three callers into the School Committee meeting Monday night all sounded as though they were calling from another planet, Mars or Pluto, or maybe from another universe. The fourth caller asked a question – which is really the wrong thing to do when calling in before the meeting.
Public commentary Monday night was about hearing the wind distort one caller; listening to another caller who made no sense while speeding in his car – those on Facebook Live could hear the car accelerating. A third caller mumbled and stumbled a bit and faded away into ZOOM oblivion. The fourth caller hung up after being informed politely by School Committeeman Frank Parker that public commentary is about that, public commentary. It is not for School Committee (SC) members to answer the caller’s questions.
The public comment thankfully over, the meeting began.
Superintendent Priya Tahiliani revealed that school attendance is at about 95% with everyday attendance showing strength.
Daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 have dropped dramatically. Everett reported less than 40 cases between the end of February and March 1.
Everett, she said, as has been reported, no longer at the highest risk. It is now a “yellow” community, down from the “red” status.
As the meeting progressed, dozens of real-time Facebook comments popped up on the site.
Facebook comments from a variety of people -teachers and parents, revealed a healthy amount of disagreement about reopening policy for students and teachers.
Tahiliani spoke about a four-day transition period when schools reopen ostensibly in April as the state is demanding.
Kindergarten first. First graders second, et cetera. Teachers are being called in this week to discuss plans for the reopening.
The dates are not yet set in stone. They will ultimately be governed by science and statistics, she said.
“We are pivoting very quickly to begin in April,” she said.
It was as if the world changed in a week for the superintendent.
Tahiliani said in-classroom teaching is being required by the state at some point and there will be no waivers.
In other words, when the state requires school systems to conform, they will all have to conform to the new standards that are set for in-school learning and teaching.
At that point, the hybrid program is out the window.
If Everett doesn’t wish to conform, the school will likely be extended into the summer for K-5.
Tahiliani said she is against standardized testing for students upon their return to the classroom.
In the last analysis, it appears that everything will depend on whether or not teachers come to work en masse, and students do the same.
In another matter, Tahiliani reported information about EPS diversity – which is largely non-existent.
At 8:02 the mayor spoke.
He said he was in constant talks with the governor to get the teachers vaccinated.
More than 500 teachers have been vaccinated. About 250 remain to be vaccinated. Bottom line, the scientific data, Tahiliani believes, warrants a return to classroom teaching, especially when augmented with vaccinations.
However, Tahiliani was somewhat hesitant, even tentative to be the cheerleader for the governor’s wishes.
“After a year with the schools closed, it is probably a time to go back to school,” she said rather reluctantly.
Several school committee members expressed frustration about the governor’s decision for schools to reopen, especially in view of the negative rumblings coming from teachers and many parents who remain worried about catching the virus and spreading it.
“It’s just another flip flop for those of us trying to be careful and to do the right thing,” School Committeeman Lamonica said.
Former SC chair Thomas Abruzzese said he felt “blindsided” by the governor’s decision.
School Committeewoman Millie Cardillo said her interest is in keeping everyone safe.
“I can respect everyone’s feelings… but this has to be done safely. If it means a couple more weeks holding off, then so be it,” she said.
“As an educator, I really want the vaccine. I’m really frustrated,” said School Committeewoman Samantha Lambert.
She encouraged parents to keep their children learning remote if they are concerned about their health.
The state is pushing, in fact, is mandating that schools reopen.
If remote or hybrid students fail to attend in person, their learning time will not be counted.
“I have trouble with that,” she said.
She pleaded for the vaccination of teachers.
“I’m not feeling a lot of faith in people making decisions outside of this room,” she said.
School committeeman Marcony Barros also endorsed the vaccination of teachers.
“We all need to be doing what- ever we can to have the governor allow the vaccination of our teachers. I’m wondering what else we can do collectively?” he asked.