The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School school committee discussed affirming the statements and values aligning with the Black Lives Matter movement at a meeting Monday.
Committee chair Kim Kirk said that the school’s values require a thorough review of policy and practice to ensure racial justice in all elements of the school community.
Kirk said her initial intent was for the committee to affirm the statements made by proponents of the movement, but after further consideration and conversations with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, decided to defer the decision to the All-Island School Committee for review.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has been referred to as one of the largest in U.S. history. It implicates the civil and human rights of those who are marginalized, as such demands more attention, more action, more than just affirmation,” Kirk said. “I would like to take this to the All-Island School Committee, where it can have more impact, and can bring out the message laid out by the young leaders who have mobilized to bring these issues to the forefront in the past months.”
Kirk also said the schools on Martha’s Vineyard are looking to establish a task force to support racial equity and justice within the school community. Kirk acknowledged the challenges with addressing some of these issues, but said she is confident the school district can combat systemic racism and move its educational mission forward.
A more in-depth plan for reopening
Superintendent Matt D’Andrea gave the school committee a rundown of the latest progress made by school officials following the release of initial fall guidance by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). This guidance includes three separate plans to ensure the safety of students, staff, and their families: a fully in-person model, an entirely remote model, and a hybrid of the two.
D’Andrea said the state is currently preparing for a fully in-person instruction in the fall, with the remote and hybrid models being available as backups in case the situation changes.
The high school staff is breaking down into subcommittees to address some of the anticipated issues with having students back in classes after the summer season wraps up.
One subcommittee is focusing on the socioemotional aspects of returning to school, which will be chaired by Dhakir Warren.
This group will look at the best ways to meet the social and emotional needs of students, family, and staff. There is also a group that will focus on English Language Learners, students with IEPs and 504 plans, and all students in the high-need population.
A technology subcommittee is being formed to ensure that all the tech needs of families and staff are met, including anything having to do with remote or partially remote instruction. In order to provide consistent and reliable access to food, D’Andrea said, the high school is forming a food service subcommittee that will be preparing for all three of these models, and will be able to pivot quickly to adapt to changing needs.
Since a number of families will not be choosing to utilize school-provided transportation in the fall, the high school staff is establishing a transportation subcommittee to look at providing safe and efficient transportation to students.
“There are lots of unanswered questions and lots of challenges, but we are continuing to work on them, getting guidance from the state, and getting these plans together,” D’Andrea said.
The goal of the schools on-Island is to have all three plans submitted to the state for review by July 31, and disseminate information regarding the final plan for fall reopening in the first week of August.
“Principals are looking at whether it is possible to have all the students in the building with the social distancing required by state — some buildings are easier than others. I am going to rely on the medical professionals to guide us in this process,” D’Andrea said.
Principal Sara Dingledy said there are many different-size rooms in the high school building, which makes it hard to determine the best flow throughout the facility. Although the overall space in the building is not lacking, Dingledy said, some classrooms will pose a challenge.
“Our building is big; our classrooms are small,” Dingledy said. “Right now we are measuring and putting those configurations together.”
Dingledy also informed the committee that as of now, there is no guidance available from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) regarding fall sports. Should the sports season move forward, Dingledy said, the ultimate goal of the high school will be participation.
“I am inclined to allow parents to choose whether they want students to participate,” Dingledy said. Although the athletic campus was allowed to reopen for limited use during phases two and three of the state reopening, Dingeldy said most of the use of those fields has been clinics and camps. Any practices involving the schools would have to be supported with MIAA guidelines.