Special to the Independent
The Everett School Committee heard good news at its meeting last Monday night regarding the increase in the number of students enrolled in the After School program. In addition, there are 360 students who are participating in the schools’ athletic programs.
The After School program, which presently is being staffed by local teachers for the month of September while the new provider, Alpa Best, completes its licensing requirements, increased from 400 students to 740 students.
Part of the reason for the increase was that instead of being open only to students in grades K-5, the program now is open to students Grades 6-8.
The After School program offers students an enrichment program that includes homework help among other programs.
Alpha Best will take over the After School program starting in October. School Committeewoman Dana Murray asked Superintendent Priyia Tahiliani if the local teachers could continue to do After School programs after this week.
“Parents like teachers running the after school programs,” Murray said.
School committeewoman Cynthia Sarni also asked if there is tracking of the students enrolled in the After School program to see if they are new students to the school system.
School Committeewoman Samantha Lambert asked if the students in the Grades 6-8 grouping could have a curriculum that could include STEM, theater, or clubs similar to extracurricular activities that are offered at the high school.
Tahiliani said that she would get back to the committee with the answers to those questions.
The local schools’ efforts to combat COVID-19 also were discussed. It was noted that wearing face masks is “very effective” at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
It was reported to the committee that 66% of the students in the 12-15 age group were fully vaccinated, as compared to the state average of 71%, and that 77% of students in the 16-19 age group have been fully vaccinated, as compared to 71% for the state.
Free Pfizer vaccine clinics are being offered at the Parlin School on September 29, the Madeleine English School on September 30, and at the Sumner Whittier School on October 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There also are clinics being operated in conjunction with the Cambridge Health Alliance until October 15.
The state’s Test and Stay Program to keep students in a school classroom and minimize missed school days also was brought up at the meeting. A free and voluntary rapid test program is now being offered and consent forms have been sent out to parents.
The first step in this program is to administer a rapid test to see if the symptoms are a cold or COVID. The test takes 15 minutes to complete. Another scenario could be to allow students who have had close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 to take a rapid test for five days and stay in school unless the test is positive.
Tahiliani noted that thus far, approximately 36 students have been tested and that the results all came back negative, which allowed the students to remain in school. But an additional 56 students were sent home as there was no qualified staff to administer the rapid test.
Presently, Cataldo Ambulance has two staff persons administering the rapid test for part of the school day. However, there are not enough school nurses to administer additional tests. Tahiliani noted that there are funds to hire more nursing staff, but there are not enough qualified applicants to fill the positions.
School Committeeman Marcony Almeida Barros asked whether if close-contact students are sent home, do they get homework and for how long do they stay out.
Tahiliani said that it depends on whether the students are vaccinated. However, they have their chrome books and are given homework assignments.
In other news from the meeting:
It was reported that the roof repairs at the Webster Extension School are scheduled to be completed by October 1;
Students in Grades K-12 are currently taking part in the What I Need Now program that will show teachers the students’ educational needs;
Parents are encouraged to fill out the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) survey. There have been 270 responses returned as of September 20. The survey seeks parents’ input to find out how to best use the federal funds; and
The committee voted to accept a $35,000 McKinney-Vento homeless education grant. The grant will be used to hire staff to work with undocumented students and also provide clothing and health care packets to those students who qualify under the guidelines. The program is geared to focus on the needs of homeless and foster care students.
The next meeting of the School Committee is scheduled for October 4.