At one point last week, it appeared Monday night was going to feature a triple-header, with meetings of strong public interest stacked back-to-back-to-back.
As of Monday morning, however, two of those meetings have been postponed. Only the Board of Selectmen will meet tonight, and they will discuss an allegation of less-than-cool behavior against multiple Conservation Commission members during a recent site walk.
The Abington Board of Health announced Monday morning they were postponing their planned discussion on a town-wide mask mandate until it’s regularly scheduled meeting next Monday, August 30th. Board chairman Aaron Christian said they wanted to wait to see how state educators were going to vote this week on requiring masks in schools. It will also give the board another week of data to see if infection numbers start to rise, especially as people start to return from their summer vacations.
The Abington School Committee had already announced that it would be meeting on Wednesday night instead of Monday night. (see more below)
Over the next few days, it’s going to be Abington’s turn to take part in the ongoing region, state and nation-wide debates over what steps should be taken – if any – in response to the growing number of people infected with the more contagious and harmful Delta variant of COVID-19. It’s a debate that’s played out among many issues in this nation’s history: the balance of individual liberties versus the best interests of the community at large.
In other places, the discussions have been nasty and divisive and driven as much by emotion as reason. Abington will have a choice to make: whether it follows a path that leads to hard feelings that linger or if these issues can be discussed as a community that has shown repeatedly over the generations it cares about each other. It’s our choice.
Here’s what’s coming up this week…
Board of Selectmen, ConCom meet to discuss allegations
The boards have called an emergency meeting Monday night after a resident leveled allegations against multiple conservation commission members that he was “harassed intimidated. and possibly assaulted” during a recent unannounced site visit. As the appointing authority, the Board of Selectmen will discuss the claims during a public meeting that starts at 5 p.m. Selectmen, under the town charter, are allowed to suspend or remove committee members in certain circumstances. The property owner had told ConCom members at a previous meeting that they could come walk the site as part of an ongoing application process. However, Conservation Commission Chairman Michael Noonan told Abington News that the board’s procedure is typically to set a specific time and date with the property owner. “This will create a continuation of an agenda item so that an open meeting law violation is not committed,” he said, adding that he and four other board members were not aware their compadres were making the site visit.
[Abington News is aware of both the property owner and the ConCom members named in the complaint. But because it hasn’t been released publicly, we’re withholding those details until made public during the meeting.]
School Committee meets Wednesday to discuss masks
The issue of whether to start the school year with a mask requirement has gone back-and-forth over the past couple weeks. Abington’s School Superintendent Peter Schafer sent out an email a week ago saying that the school district would follow state guidance, which “strongly encourages” the wearing of masks in the classroom. This wasn’t voted in a meeting, rather a reflection of the sense of the board. Two issues have arisen since then. First, it turns out the school district’s mask policy from last year hasn’t been rescinded yet, meaning it’s still in effect. If the School Committee takes no action, that policy remains in place, according to multiple school officials, and Abington students will wear masks on the 1st day of school. It is believed that the existing policy will be dropped because it contains outdated language and strict rules around masks. What happens after that, though, is unknown at this point. Because issue number two is that the state Department of Early and Secondary Education dropped a bombshell late last week that it would consider on Tuesday School Commissioner Jeff Riley’s request to start the school year with a mask mandate. Up until last week Gov. Charles Baker said he would not push for a mandate but instead leave it up to school districts to decide on their own. (You can decide whether his Education Commissioner apparently has now either gone rogue or is serving as the lightning rod.) As a result, the Abington School Committee moved its discussion from Monday to Wednesday night. The Cohasset School Committee’s meeting on the topic last week lasted six (6!) hours – which is even longer than the typical Abington Planning Board meeting.
Judging by opinions voiced in the new town square, there are a lot of strong feelings on both sides of the issue. And no matter the decision on Wednesday, a healthy segment of Abington school parents are going to be disappointed.
Board of Health meeting postponed
The Board of Health, originally scheduled to meet tonight, will now meet next Monday at its regularly scheduled gathering to discuss whether Abington needs to reinstate a mask requirement in public spaces. Abington has averaged about two dozen positive cases over the past couple of weeks, which is an increase over the average most of the summer, but significantly lower than the spike last winter.
Joint Water Works meets Tuesday afternoon
For everybody who likes complaining about the town’s drinking water – and there seems to be a lot of you – Tuesday is your afternoon to ask some questions. None of the six elected Water Works Commissioners appear very active on the Facebook discussion threads, so this would be a great opportunity to speak directly to them. The 3:30 p.m. meeting at the Water Works building in Rockland isn’t ideal for most people – but hopefully some of you can make it.
Student vaccine clinic Wednesday
The Abington Board of Health, Abington Health Department, and Abington Public Schools will be holding a vaccination clinic for students 12+ on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 pm. The clinic will be held in the High School gymnasium and is voluntary. Those interested must pre-register through the Health Department website. Parents/guardians must be present during the vaccination. The second dose clinic will be given Sept. 9 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Volunteers wanted; deadline to apply is Aug. 25
The deadline to apply for a number of openings on town boards is Wednesday, August 25. More information available here.
Beaver Brook Playground fundraiser Tuesday
The committee looking to re-envision and rebuild the Beaver Brook playground playground is hosting a fundraiser Tuesday night at the Abington Ale House. The gathering is scheduled from 6 – 9 p.m. on the Ale House patio. Tickets are $20 per person.
Survey about town website
Decision makers in Town Hall realize the town’s website is lacking. So they are taking the first steps towards upgrading it. They want to hear from community members about what features are important to them. Fill out this survey to have your voice heard. https://forms.gle/oSrfsrsSeceh4dN49
Board of Selectmen/ Conservation Commission, 5 p.m., Town Hall. Agenda includes a discussion on allegations against multiple ConCom members
Abington/Rockland Joint Water Works, 3:30 p.m., 366 Centre Ave., Rockland. Agenda includes discussions about two proposed connections, a report from the superintendent, and a public forum.
School Committee, 7 p.m., MS/HS Auditorium. Agenda includes a discussion on masks during the upcoming school year.