Face masks optional on buses starting today – YourArlington.com

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School Committee logo Masks still required at Menotomy Preschool.

UPDATED April 2: Face masks became optional on the buses of Arlington Public Schools starting Friday, April 1, Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Homan announced at Thursday evening’s School Committee meeting.

However, masks continue to be required indoors at Menotomy Preschool, as most pupils there are too young to be eligible for Covid-19 vaccination.

The Arlington Public Schools, which made mask-wearing in grades K-12 optional as of March 7, have had isolated virus outbreaks since then, with the April 1 total infection rate expected to be 38 cases, compared with a high of 59 on March 25.

Accordingly, “targeted masking” inside individual classrooms — meaning that masks are either required or strongly recommended depending on the specific circumstances — has been put into effect. The affected schools have been Bishop, Dallin, Hardy, Peirce and Thompson elementary, which teach grades K-5.

“It certainly spreads in classrooms,” Homan said. There was “quite an uptick” recently, she noted, adding that the overall district goal continues to be “to keep everybody in school as much as possible.” Meanwhile, coronavirus testing continues weekly or twice weekly on all district campuses. 

Teachers to get extra pandemic pay

In a closed session held at the end of the open session on Thursday night, whose results were provided to YourArlington on Friday afternoon, the committee voted to approve a memorandum of agreement with the unions to give money to historically on-campus-based employees who spent more than half their time working remotely between March 2020 and March 2021, the depths of the ongoing pandemic.

Those covered by the agreement are to receive $1,500 on a one-time basis, and, in addition, $500 for each month of the time period specified, with funds coming from federal sources earmarked for this purpose.

See the memo here >>
EDCO letter to Lexington

Also Thursday night, the committee voted unanimously to send a letter signed by Chairman Bill Hayner to the School Committee of neighboring Lexington. The letter criticizes that school committee for its apparent refusal to bear its proportional share of the cost to shut down EDCO, a 50-year-old areawide educational collaborative that has outlived its purpose.

Hayner noted that Lexington alone has so far been unwilling to shoulder its part of the financial hit – nearly $150,000 per town, a figure that presumably would be higher yet should Lexington remain recalcitrant.

“Lexington does have the ability to pay,” Hayner said; he and others at the meeting noted that Lexington is one of the most affluent communities in the county. Copies of this letter when finalized are to be sent to all other EDCO members, relevant state legislators and local media outlets.

Read the full text of the rough-draft version of the letter here >>  

In other business:
  • The superintendent asked that her evaluation take place in November, as originally scheduled, rather than this school year, as more recently suggested. This, she said, would allow for more data, including from surveys and standardized-testing results, to be considered. She further suggested that her reviews in future take place approximately every six months, for instance, in May and in November. Without voting, the committee seemed to agree with this idea.
  • During public comment, two parents spoke about heterogenous grouping for freshman English in autumn, one in favor, one against. One may register here for a public community forum set to take place Tuesday, April 5, from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. (District officials suggest signing in to Zoom closer to 6 p.m. Tuesday.)

    Heterogenous grouping means that students of perceived differing skill levels would share a classroom, with teachers providing differentiated assignments, appropriate support and multiple pathways as needed. This practice would affect 400 students maximum, according to a 29-page district document on the topic. Read it here >>  According to that document, local teachers generally favor the practice, it is already used in three neighboring towns and it is recommended by several large educational organizations.

  • For the first time since 2019, Arlington High School will put on a live musical. Some 50 students are involved, according to the AHS website. This will be The Who’s “Tommy,” based on a rock opera released as a double vinyl album in 1969, and scheduled for April 8 through 10. The production will take place not at AHS but at Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown because of the ongoing AHS construction.
  • Also of note, Teacher Appreciation Week will be in early May.
  • The district is still in hiring mode, Homan reported, with recruiting now open for two major positions – director of wellness and director of visual arts. 

March 18, 2022: Committee meets in person, adopts budget; masks reemerge at Bishop
 

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Judith Pfeffer was published Friday, April 1, 2022, and updated April 2, 2022, to add information about the upcoming virtual forum on heterogeneous grouping in 9th-grade English, and to report about the recent agreement between the committee and certain employees for extra pay related to their service for a year’s time when campuses were closed.

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