Classes resumed this morning following the annual February vacation week.
The Abington School Department wants to remind those who made the decision to travel out of state for vacation week that they must follow Massachusetts’ travel order before sending their kids back to school.
“If you traveled outside of Massachusetts to any high-risk state, the MA travel order requires that your family be tested for COVID-19 or quarantine for 10 days upon return,” Donna Corso, the district’s head nurse, wrote in an email sent to parents and guardians. “Additionally, you are asked to closely monitor all members of your family for 14 days upon return.”
Students are not able to return until they provide an email or paper copy of a negative PCR COVID test to their school nurse, she said.
Meanwhile, the most unusual school year in a century continues to roll on still without any clearer sense of when things still return back to “normal.”
There are a couple notches in the “glass half full” side of the ledger. First example, the number of active cases in Abington has receded dramatically over the past couple weeks. Also, more than 1.4 million vaccine doses have been administered to Massachusetts residents so far (we’ll come back to the vaccination process momentarily), with the number of doses being released by the federal government to the states every week increasing.
On the “glass half empty side” are these facts: that the Baker Administration has not given any indication it will move teachers up the priority list, despite the fact working with children makes it impossible for educators to maintain a six foot distance at all times. And it’s still unclear whether the more virulent UK or South African strains will undo any progress that’s been made.
All of this has made it more difficult for Abington educators to decide how they adjust the district’s learning model in the weeks and months ahead. Some parents are pushing to have students back in the classroom more, citing efforts in other nearby towns. Superintendent Peter Schafer has said that Abington simply doesn’t have the space required to return to full-time, in-person learning, while keeping students between 3-6 feet apart. But he also said his team is trying to figure out ways to improve the current hybrid model. This is expected to be a point of discussion when the School Committee meets this week.
How is the Baker Administration’s decision to cut cities and towns out from the vaccination process and instead privatize efforts being received? We’d argue that a Massachusetts governor hasn’t come under this much universal condemnation from municipal leaders since 2009 when then-Gov. Deval Patrick made a mid-year local aid cut of $143 million. But even then, some people cut him some slack because it was the middle of the Great Recession.
Criticism continues to pour in from all corners of the state, after the governor’s Health & Human Services secretary formalized last week what cities and towns were starting to suspect: despite having mass vaccination plans ready since the Cold War, their services were no longer needed. Send grandma to a Fenway Park beer stand instead.
The Abington Board of Health voted to send the state a “what’s up with that?” letter last week. State Rep. Alyson Sullivan signed on to a similar letter with a number of her colleagues as well. The Abington Board of Selectmen at their meeting tonight is expected to approve a letter of their own.
Meanwhile, the state Legislature, which recently remembered its oversight responsibilities, will bring members of the Baker team in for a series of hearings starting Thursday. It’s safe to assume this topic will come up.
The process of securing coveted vaccination appointments at one of the privately-run vaccination sites looks more and more like the fight to get good Red Sox tickets. As soon as the box office releases 25,000 new appointments, they’re gone. Keep trying, is the word.
The Abington Board of Health did make it clear that anyone who already received their first dose, will be able to receive their second dose. The local clinic dates have not been set yet, but town Director of Public Health Marty Golightly said the state has assured towns they will get the needed doses. Anyone with questions should call the Health Department at 781-982-2119.
BOOSTERS VIRTUAL FUNDRAISER
The Abington Green Wave Boosters is holding a Challenge Trivia night — virtually — this Saturday, Feb. 27, starting at 6:45. It is open to anyone who wants to play as an individual or as a team of 6. Participants will need two devices: one to access the Zoom link, and a smart phone/tablet to play the game. Cost is $25 with proceeds going to help student athletes at Abington High School. For more information, or to sign up, email Mary Rogers at H3JRMR@aol.com
The family of World War II veteran Peter Loughman is organizing a 95th birthday parade this Saturday at Noon. Mr. Loughman, who served in the U.S. Navy, will be seated on the porch of the American Legion post on Washington Street. Anyone interested in participating is asked to line up in the Beaver Brook Elementary School parking lot.
Selectmen Monday night will have a discussion around whether to move the Town Elections back to the High School gymnasium, or another town-owned facility. For decades, voters traditionally cast their ballots in the gymnasium of the former high school before it was torn down in 2017. The polls were moved to Emerald Hall while the new high school building was constructed, back to the High School in 2018, and then back to Emerald Hall in 2019. Some feel the new gymnasium is not conducive to voting, as the parking areas are further away from the main entrance than they were at the old building. However, others feel the gymnasium is just fine, and that the town shouldn’t pay a private business to host voting. “I have never been in favor of using any place other than a town owned building,” Selectman Alex Bezanson told Abington News. The discussion is expected to consider other locations, such as the Woodsdale and Beaver Brook elementary schools, as possible voting locations.
Meanwhile, nomination papers are still available for those who feel the civic need to give back, or can help run the town better.
Here’s a list of those who have pulled nomination papers so far: Alex Hagerty, Board of Selectmen; Christine Henrikson, Board of Selectmen; Tim Chapin, Board of Selectmen; Jaclyn Abrams, School Committee; Chris Schultz, Board of Health; Melissa Pond, Board of Health; Erik Henrikson, Sewer Commission; Bill Cormier, Water Commission; Richard Muncey, Water Commission; Ann Kent, Board of Assessors; Gail Bergin, Library Trustees; Henry DiCarlo, Library Trustees; Mary Gillis, Library Trustees; Jeff Rangel, Planning Board; Melodie Olson, Housing Authority.
Those interested in running for municipal office can still contact the Town Clerk’s Office about picking up nomination papers (Town Hall is currently closed to the public but departments remain open and working). Town Clerk Leanne Adams can be reached by phone at (781) 982-2112, or via email at LMAdams@abingtonma.gov
Any parent or guardian with a child turning 5 on or before August 31, 2021 can now sign their child up for kindergarten. Registration is held on a rolling basis. Families can email registration paperwork to Beaver Brook Elementary School at BBESKReg@abingtonps.org, or fax it, or drop it off at the school. Registration packets were mailed to families in January, but are also available here. School officials ask that this information be shared with any friends/neighbors with 5-year-old children. Your child won’t be denied a space this fall if you don’t register now, but it is helpful for school administrators to know how many students that will have so they can start planning and coordinating.
Selectmen Monday night will discuss possibly putting in policies for clothing collection bins. The bins, which can be found on public and private property around town, ostensibly give people the opportunity to donate old clothes, towels, linens, etc, where they could be resold or recycled. However, they can also become collection spots for trash dumping. Some feel the problem is getting worse and needs to be addressed.
Board of Selectmen, 6:30 p.m., via Zoom. (This meeting will also be broadcast live by ACAM). The board will meet for a period in executive session to discuss union contracts. The agenda also includes a letter to Gov. Baker on the vaccine rollout, a discussion around voting locations, an update on the town’s health insurance plan, clothing collecting bin policies, and the Annual Town Meeting warrant.
School Committee, 7 p.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes Abington High School’s 20-21 improvement plan, an update from the superintendent on learning models, a discussion on bilingual learning, and an update from the student representative.
Finance Committee, 7 p.m., via Zoom. Agenda includes reviewing budget requests for the Strawberry Valley Golf Course and accounting department, and the town’s assessment for South Shore Vo-Tech High School.