School Committee Meeting Minutes 09/14/2020

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Farmington River Regional School District

Farmington River Elementary School

555 North Main Road, Otis, MA 01253

Via Zoom

Monday September 14, 2020 7:00PM

Meeting #391





Community Participation:                                                   7:00-7:15 PM




Members Present: All members present



  1. Approval of minutes #391. Vote was unanimous to approve minutes #391.  Arlene motioned to approve; Carol seconded the motion.


  1. Principal/Superintendent updates: Tom updated on the reopening of the school.  So far everything is going smoothly.  Students are doing fantastic with social distancing and wearing their masks.  Busing had to be tweaked with times, but they are now running on time.  Staff has done a great job with transitioning the students back in school.  Lunch has been perfect.  Remote learners have been okay, but there is poor cell service and bad internet to work with.  We have purchased 20 hot spots and distributed them out.  Some remote learners have returned to school which is great, but we need to reassess every time this happens.  Everything is readjusted when a student returns to school.  During recess, masks are worn if students want to swing on the swing sets.


Carol Lombardo asked what would happen if all the students return.  Tom said he really does not know yet.  We are crossing that bridge as it comes.  For example, if Mrs. Martin’s students return there may be a chance that her class may move to the library.  She has the greatest number of students in the school.  Jennifer Hibbins then asked how many new students have enrolled from each town due to the movement from New York and other areas, and how does this affect the assessments for the two towns.  Jennifer thought there was a year lag in enrollment.  Teresa DellaGiustina answered with there are 37 students from Sandisfield, 36 students from Otis.  The rest of the students are school choice.  Eric Jesner then stated that the assessment is not a year lag, it goes off the current school numbers for the budget.  A question arose about where does our school choice students come from?  Tom answered with Tolland, Blandford, Becket, Pittsfield, and Lee.


Tom wanted to acknowledge the hard work that everyone has done for the reopening.  Jeff Gray has done a phenomenal job cleaning and getting the building set for the students and staff to come back as well as keeping up on the building’s daily needs. Jeff has put up many sanitary stations on the walls for hands.  Eric has been putting extra time in helping Jeff with putting up the plexiglass desk shields on the students’ desks.  Teresa has been working on transportation which is continuously changing.


Someone asked if the school was testing anyone for COVID.  Tom’s reply was no.  Tom attends the Superintendent round table every week and since we are a such a low to no case area, they decided not to have people tested.  With the increased mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing, Tom in in hopes that this will help with the regular flu season as well.


The school received a grant from General Dynamics for $8500.  Some of the money will go towards more technology and chrome books.  Otis wireless was kind enough to hook up internet for free for families with low income that need the internet for school purposes.  Sandisfield is different being a year away from having internet.  Hot spots do not work.  The plan is to send a thumb drive home with work for the kids.  Not an ideal way, but it is something to try out.


Tom is in the works to fill in the potholes in the parking lot.  Tom has a few quotes that he must go over with Eric about.  Carol Lombardo suggested to give Chris Chaffee a call.  Chris now has expanded to landscaping and snow plowing.


Jennifer Hibbins asked how well the health screening are going.  Tom said the screenings are getting better with the reminders sent out.  We roughly get about 90% of the parents filling out the screenings.


Arlene Tolopko asked how the teachers are handling everything.  Tom stated that everyone is doing fine.  The first week everyone was at maximum stress levels.  That included Tom, Eric, Paula and Teresa and everyone else who is trying to get everything done in such a short amount of time.  Priorities are set.  Safety for the everyone is the number one priority; the rest will have to fall into place as we go along.  The kitchen is doing fine.  No main issues.  If any more students come in there may be an issue with distancing, but overall, everything is going smoothly.  PK will be eating in their room all year due to table size.  We would have to move tables to fit them every day, so it is easier to have the students eat in their room.  Masks have not been an issue.  The PTA did provide lanyards for everyone at the school, as well as masks.  The students seem not to mind wearing their masks.


Roger Kohler asked Tom if it would be our responsibility to help students who are not in district but live in the two towns.  Roger received a couple of call from parents who are struggling with internet issues.  Tom mentioned that he did get a call from Berkshire Hills about a Sandisfield student who does not have access to the internet.  Teresa is working on providing van transportation to and from the Stockbridge Town Hall for this student to access internet.  That is where Berkshire Hills’s district offices are.  A Paraprofessional, provided by Berkshire Hills, will be there as well to look after the student during school hours.


  1. Tom Nadolny to present a policy for face coverings. Tom asked the Committee to look over a policy he is proposing about face coverings.  The policy covers when and where the students need to wear their face covering.  Also, it discusses mask breaks throughout the day.  Tom briefly went over the policy.  There are some exceptions to the rules of face coverings.  Provided by a doctor’s note, a student may be exempt from wearing anything.  Plexiglass does surround the top of all the desks.  Jennifer Hibbins brought up headaches.  If a student complains about a headache, they can go to a designated area with a window open for fresh air.  Again, mask breaks are being taken throughout the day outside.  There was a little confusion about gym classes.  The school sent out a notice stating that a mask is not needed during gym.  Daley sent out a letter stating the students must wear masks.  Tom feels it depends on the activity being instructed.  Tom will follow up with Mrs. Daley to make the procedure the same for everyone.  Jennifer did ask if the type of face covering be in the policy.  Gators and bandanas were requested not to be worn because they are not effective enough for protection.  At the next meeting, a vote for the face covering policy can be on the agenda.


  1. Discussion on solar options. Charlie Giumond was here to present solar options from the company Relay Power.  Charlie works with schools and businesses on the benefits of using renewable energy.  Charlie did provide a slide show on the benefits.  The company is out of Blandford and is already built.  They connect towns, businesses, and schools to existing solar farms.  They use community solar to provide the services and benefits for the school.  At this point Charlie’s internet was not particularly good.  He kept freezing up via Zoom.  Eric does think this is a good investment.  Tom wants to look further into it because of the warranty on the roof from when it had been damaged and redone.  The agreement is for a twenty-year period.  Charlie will leave information for the School Committee to go over and decide by next month’s meeting.


  1. Financial updates. Eric Jesner does not have the FY20 numbers because he is still working with our auditors to finish up the end of the year figures.  Eric is in hopes that he will have the numbers for the next School Committee meeting.  Eric is applying for an extension.  The rest of the state is in the same situation.


Jennifer Hibbins wanted to know if we are getting grants for all the technology that we are acquiring or is it affecting the budget.  Eric feels confident that we will not have to depend on the budget to pay for the technology.


Roger asked if we have hired a fourth custodian yet.  Eric replied that we have not do so yet.


Jennifer wanted to bring up next month’s meeting.  Jennifer reached out to Roger Brown, chair of the Finance Committee in Sandisfield and Terry Gould, finance chair of Otis.  Both will be attending the meeting.  Jennifer has not heard from any one from the Select board or the Administrator from Sandisfield.  Eric did mail out letters to both town’s administrators inviting them to the meeting in October.  Eric has not heard from any one from Sandisfield, only from Otis.


Jennifer did say that Roger Brown is trying to get the Select Board to work


Jessica Drenga asked Teresa to start the agenda with the agreement first.


  1. Carol Lombardo motioned to adjourn; Deb Fogel seconded the motion.  The vote was unanimous to adjourn the meeting.  Meeting adjourned 8:17pm


Respectively Submitted,


Teresa DellaGiustina, Secretary