Being unable to meet in person did not hinder the Sandwich School Committee, which met remotely on Wednesday, March 25.
The board was able to meet using Google Hangouts. The meeting was streamed live by Sandwich Community Television. Each member, as well as Superintendent Pamela A. Gould and administrative assistant Holly Lenk, participated from their own homes.
With town buildings and schools closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, committees have had to find creative ways to carry on with their business. This meeting marked the first time in school committee history that the board met in a completely virtual setting.
Members of the public were able to participate remotely by filling out an online form with their questions or comments. The form was made available online ahead of the meeting. Only one person took advantage of the opportunity. Forestdale kindergarten teacher Lisa Kent, asked that events such as senior prom and graduation be postponed instead of canceled if they are affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The items discussed during the meeting revolved largelyaround what the rest of the school year might look like if students and teachers are going to be doing their learning and teaching from home, as well as some administrative details, like figuring out how committee paperwork could still be signed if the board members are not physically able to do so.
Regarding learning from home, Dr. Gould said that schools across the commonwealth are looking for some guidance from the state. That guidance is expected soon. The biggest concern that superintendents have in that regard is trying to figure out if all students have computers or tablets and are able to connect to the internet. Dr. Gould said Sandwich has the ability to provide all students from 3rd through 12th grades with Chromebooks, but some districts in the state do not have those capabilities.
Even ahead of state guidance, she said, many teachers have taken the initiative to make contact with their students using online tools such as Zoom, Google Classroom, and Google Hangouts. Even though there is no mandatory work being assigned, teachers have compiled educational resources for parents and students.
“I can’t commend the staff enough,” Dr. Gould said. “Our teachers jumped right in.”
Currently schools in the state have been closed by Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. through Friday, May 1, which would have schools reopening on Monday, May 4.
Vice chairman Kerri L. Ames praised the special education teachers and therapists who have made efforts to reach out and offer what assistance they can while her daughter is unable to receive in-school services.
The board also had positive things to say about how the teachers had stepped up, as well as how proud they are to see the community rallying together during this difficult time.
Chairman Sean P. Rausch mentioned local businesses, such as Marshland, that have stepped up to provide food and other resources to the community at a time when a lot of people have lost their jobs or, for some students, their source of food while schools are closed.
“It’s Sandwich. It’s what we are,” he said. “The community definitely deserves some recognition as a whole.”
On the business side of the meeting, the committee updated a policy regarding the signing of warrants, which allows bills to get paid in the district. The policy previously called for a majority of board members to sign the warrants in order for them to be accepted, but the new policy allows for the chairman to use his or her discretion in times of emergency to be the sole signer of the warrants.
The board plans to meet next on Wednesday, April 8, at 7 PM. Mr. Rausch said that the meeting location, and whether or not it will be a remote or in-person meeting, will be determined at a later date.