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School year off to a positive start in Ashland


September 10, 2020
ASHLAND — At their short Sept. 1 meeting, the Ashland School Board heard about the start of the school year and other school activities, and approved policies, more sick days, and an Eagle Scout project for picnic tables. Technical difficulties delayed the start of the virtual meeting by over twenty minutes, as it was necessary to switch from YouTube to Google Meet.

Associate Principal Kelly Avery and Interim Principal Steve Guyer reported positively on the start of the school, which opened the day before the meeting. A total of 162 students are now enrolled. Parents were given the choice of having their children attend school in person or remotely. 114 students (70 percent) are attending in person, while 48

students (30 percent) are attending remotely. Students have adapted well to the new requirements for face masks and social distancing, including sitting separately at lunch. Guyer was worried about the face masks requirement, but it has turned out to not be a problem, as parents have trained their kids to wear masks. The arrival and dismissal of

students, much more complicated during the pandemic, has gone smoothly. To avoid a full school bus, there are now two bus runs, with two staff members riding on the bus. Breakfasts and lunches have been requested for six remote students.

Avery reported on summer activities. Fifteen students attended the successful Summer Blast program in July, which also served as a dry run for the measures needed to reopen the school. The maintenance staff added hand sanitizer stations and completed the isolation room. The second phase of new playground equipment was installed. Staff development sessions included training in the new math program and the technology of remote learning. Staff hiring has been difficult this year, as it has been throughout the state, with generally very light applications for teacher, paraeducator and custodian positions in this pandemic year. Two applicants did apply for the custodian position.

The Policy Review Committee reported that fifteen policies they had reviewed did not need any changes. The Board did approve the first readings of three policies on Board-Superintendent Duties, on Number of Board Members and on Resignation (of school board members), which required minor amendments.

Superintendent Mary Moriarty asked the board to add days to the Ashland Teachers Association sick bank. The "bank" was created by ATA members donating one sick day per year. Teachers and staff with long term illnesses who exceed the number of sick days allotted to them as individuals can apply for more sick days from the sick bank. The bank had reached 178 sick days, a little short of the 180 days which were the maximum number of sick days that the bank can hold under the agreement between the school district and the ATA. The Superintendent asked that, during the Covid pandemic, the School Board add two more days to the bank to bring it to the maximum of 180 days and also to allow those employees who have not previously been in the sick bank to join it by contributing their sick days. She estimated that the two moves would bring the total of days in the sick bank to 185. The Board voted unanimously to approve the additional days.

The Board also gave preliminary approval to the plans of Boy Scout Declan Ulricson to build four picnic tables to replace the school's old and rotting current tables. There would be two hexagonal tables and two more typical rectangular tables. He plans to solicit building materials from local businesses and others. The expected cost of the

materials is about $400. Scout volunteers will provide the labor. This would be the service project required for the Eagle Scout rank that Ulricson is seeking.

Superintendent Mary Moriarty infomed the School Board that it may be necessary to withdraw money from the SpecialEducation Expendable Trust Fund this year. Assistant Superintendent Trish Temperino explained that the year end financial report for the 2019-2020 school year showed a balance of $113,022 that will be used to reduce the

property tax rate. New Board member Jennifer Foote volunteered to serve as the alternate School Board representative to the Budget Committee.

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