Reading, MA — School Committee chair Chuck Robinson reported to the School Committee that plans are underway for the committee to begin to meet in person once again, starting with their June 10 meeting. Governor Charlie Baker has lifted the state of emergency in Massachusetts as of June 15. Robinson added that technical issues such as public participation were still being finalized and that the committee would be kept informed as to progress on the matter.
After a brief public hearing, the School Committee voted 6-0 to opt out of the school choice program for the 2021-2022 school year, citing enrollment and space issues. This is an annual vote taken by the committee. Member Shawn Brandt inquired whether or not, if the district did participate in the program, out-of-district enrollment could be limited by grade level. Superintendent of School John Doherty answered that it could, but enrollment from other districts would be based on a lottery approach. Brandt and School Committee member Thomas Wise indicated that a deeper discussion on the issue would help the process before the vote next year, as the sending districts of enrolled students would supply some additional revenues with little extra cost to Reading.
Margaret Driscoll, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials (MASBO), and Daniel Sanderson from Axion BT/KenMark, made a formal presentation of the John F. Conway Distinguished Service Award to Chief Financial Officer Gail Dowd. The press release for this award was reported by The Reading Post last week. Dowd received the award at MASBO’s 55th Annual Institute on May 14.
The committee voted 6-0 to approve a statement of interest to be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for possible upgrades or replacement of Killam Elementary School. Doherty reminded the committee that this action “gets our foot in the door of the process” but does not commit the town to any specific action. It also does not commit the MSBA to any reimbursement of a project. If the MSBA accepts the letter, the town will have 270 days to take the next steps, including initiating a feasibility study. The Select Board will be voting on the statement on Tuesday, June 1.
Doherty reported that two in-school vaccination clinics had been held for eligible students. One hundred and eighty-four students were vaccinated over two days at the clinics. There was a minor incident of an individual heckling students at the Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) clinic. The person was escorted off the property. Doherty also reported that in total, 593 RMHS students had been vaccinated before the clinics began.
Doherty shared that the RISE preschool was recognized as an exemplar pre-school by the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations. The school was recognized “for addressing social-emotional and mental health needs for children.” He also shared that the elementary and middle school open houses this spring would not be occurring.
The committee voted 6-0 to approve the school district’s final Fiscal Year 2022 capital and expense budgets. The approved capital expense budget is $865,000, with an expense budget of $49,695,998. These figures are unchanged from what the committee submitted to the Town Manager in February. This is an annual vote that occurs after Town Meeting approves the budget.
The committee ended the May 27 meeting approving the second reading of several policies, including ACE, Programs for Students with Disabilities; BID, Committee Member Compensation and Expenses; BIBA, Committee Conference and Workshops and DKC, Expense Reimbursements. All were accepted by a vote of 6-0.
The School Committee adjourned at 8:35 pm.