Superintendent LePage: Despite obstacles, a smooth year is expected

Before local students headed back to school this week, the Board of Education held a special meeting to discuss reopening plans.

Along with members of the BOE, also in attendance for the Aug. 19 Zoom meeting were Superintendent of Schools Steven LePage, Assistant Superintendent of Schools David Levenduski, Plainville school principals, and other school system employees. The following is taken from the meeting minutes available on the municipal website.

LePage stated that the Governor’s Executive Order 13A as well as orders from the Commissioner of Public Health require that everyone must wear a mask regardless of vaccination status while in school buildings. And that unless modified or terminated, this order shall remain in effect through Sept. 30.

LePage stated that he receives letters and emails from parents, who basically hold him responsible for the mask mandate. The superintendent explained that as an appointed official of the school system, he is obligated to follow state laws and has no power to change them. However, LePage said he understands the multiple perspectives on this issue and, for the most part, discourse has been civil, appropriate and polite.

LePage told the BOE that he and David Levenduski created a blue and white table which was sent to all families, staff and board members, as a quick reference guide, and updated the school reopening plan as state guidelines changed.

BOE member Rebecca Martinez asked if the school district has been looking into a state plan for testing of those who do not want to be vaccinated.

LePage responded that there are many concerns with the loss of instructional time, lost learning time, and disruption of the school environment, as a full screening would take a few hours to complete. Also, LePage stated that he doesn’t know what the rate of parent approval would be for such testing.

Martinez asked how recess will be handled in Plainville schools, and Wheeler School Principal Andrew Batchelder stated that during wellness breaks and mask breaks, kids will travel in cohorts. Diagrams were made to show areas where students will be playing.

Batchelder stated that this recess process will more than likely continue well after COVID is gone, as it is a more orderly, safe situation for kids.

Later in the meeting, BOE member Becky Tyrrell stated that the board has to make decisions for 2,200 children, and it’s not always easy. The board must do what is safe and reasonable for all kids, she said. The board must make sure that the district has a school year as normal as possible, and that people can disagree respectfully, Tyrrell said. No one has ulterior motives, she added.

The meeting concluded with LePage saying he expects an outstanding year ahead in Plainville schools.

“Kids will have amazing experiences. We are adding staff to fill holes, we’re adding supports, as well as mental health and academic supports, and are putting plans, programs and projects together,” he said. “We are going to do great things for our schools. This is yet another obstacle we will need to overcome, and we always do.”

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