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School Committee February 7 Meeting Summary

The Sanford School Committee met February 7, 2022. All members were present.

The minutes of the previous meetings were approved.

Public Comments: Former Committee member Kendra Williams spoke about the proposed expansion of Pre-Kindergarten. She said she understood how the Committee members had to make difficult choices about the budget, but urged them not to cut the Pre-K expansion funds, saying the benefits of early childhood education were well documented. “If we don’t do this now, when are we ever going to do this?” she asked.

There were no other communications.

Committee Reports

Construction: Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson said he met with the architects, legal counsel and Maine Department of Education representative about the recent decision in the arbitration over the Sanford High School construction. The School Department will comply with the decision and release $60,000 of the retainage funds to Warren Mechanical. $240,000 in retainage is still being held. The punch list of uncompleted items is being updated and values assigned to each item before any other funds will be released. The issue with tripping of the heating system is still being addressed, and he hoped that all parties could get together this week to set up the control module. The construction at Sanford Pride Elementary is finalized and signed off to be paid.

Scheduling Advisory: Mr. Nelson reported that at the most recent meeting of this Committee, members discussed what they like and don’t like about the current SHS schedule. Things they don’t like include too many daily changes, lunches are too short, and no study halls. Things they do like include semester blocks and credit opportunities. Next the Committee will look at other scheduling options and models, and review a “skinny block” survey that will be sent out to stakeholders for input. He said that even though the overall schedule is not anticipated to change anytime soon, the “skinny block” may be tweaked and adjusted in the short term to improve it.

Performing Arts Center: Chair Paula Cote reported that tickets are still available for Broadway’s Next Hit Musical this coming Saturday. The SHS spring musical, Mamma Mia, is in full production mode with dance rehearsals starting this week. Tickets will go on sale February 11. She said SPAC is hosting three regional dance competitions between now and April, and has six additional dance studio recital weekends schedules. “These rentals help keep the budget in black,” she said.

Superintendent’s Report

Student Representatives: Isabella Farrington reported that the Peer Helpers have Valentine’s Day activities planned. John Paul Alexandre said the SHS Abroad ice skating social had to be postponed to February 12 due to the storm. Grace Davie reported that the Sanford Backpack Program is planning another big food distribution like the one they held last February. The date is February 17 and they will have 100,000 pounds of food to give out. The event will be open to all York County residents. SBP is seeking volunteers to help with the distribution.

Safe Return to Schools Update: Mr. Nelson said Covid numbers continue to trend in the right direction, and shared the latest stats on daily attendance by grade at each school. Attendance at SHS varies from 85 to 87%, Sanford Middle School is 87-88%, and Carl J. Lamb is just below 90%, but the other schools are over 90%. If things continue this way, he expects all schools to be out of outbreak status soon. Numbers of new Covid cases are generally in the single digits for the district each day. He does expect a mini-surge after school vacation. The York County Superintendents are encouraging MDOE to discuss “an offramp” for face coverings in the schools.

Positive News: see separate story.

Director’s Reports

Safety Committee: Assistant Superintendent Steve Bussiere gave the safety update. In January, there were eleven staff injuries, of which one was a slip and fall, one a lifting injury, and one repetitive motion. Eight incidents were caused while working with escalated students, and the Special Education Department is looking for opportunities to provide staff training for support with this. Two student injuries in January included a slip and fall, and a burned finger at SRTC. Mr. Bussiere said the biggest safety issue this winter is ice, and thanked the maintenance staff and custodians for their efforts. He also reported on lockdown drills, which the district is required to perform three times a year. The Student Resource Officers as well as law enforcement students at SRTC help with the lockdowns.

School Committee member John Roux said it has been brought to his attention that speeding motor vehicles have become an issue at SHS. Tickets are being issued.

New Business

Calendar: The proposed calendar for the 2022/2023 school year was approved following the second reading. The first full day of school for grades 1-12 will be Monday, August 29, with Pre-K and Kindergarten students starting later in the week. Christmas vacation will be December 23 through January 2. If there are no snow days, the last day of school will be June 7, 2023.

Old Business: none

Staff changes: Mr. Nelson announced that SHS Physical Education teacher Diana Walker, and science teacher Steven Walker, will be retiring at the end of the school year. (Read an article about them here.) Appointments of new staff included coaches for spring sports.

Policies and Procedures: The first reading of a new policy on student discipline was held. Mr. Bussiere said the Department already has discipline policies in place, but MDOE requested an overarching policy that stresses restorative practices, to match up with a new state law. Committee member Jen Davie suggested giving consideration to using the term “student caregivers” rather than “parents,” and Mr. Bussiere agreed. The first reading was accepted.

A video of the meeting can be viewed here.

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