Andover School Board Minutes – October 5, 2021

Condensed from approved minutes.

October 5, 2021


In-Person Board Present: Brandon Adams, Adam Jones, Dan Newton, Lisa Burbach, and Aimee Menard

Administration and AEMS Staff Present: Mark MacLean, Randy Wormald, Dennis Dobe, Dennis Audet, Kathleen Boucher, Hilary Denoncourt, Beth Page

Public Present: Caroline Boucher, Greg Stetson, Caden Heath, Donna Crisp Duclos, Meghan Foley

Finance Report: Overages within the ASD budget are due to contracted special education needs, which are what is known for year-long contracts. The 2020-2021 ASD unassigned fund balance is approximately $255,000 dollars. This will be returned to the Town and used in tax rate calculations. 

Dan motioned to approve the finance report and Brandon seconded. There was no further discussion. The motion carried with all in favor.

Public Comment: Foley is interested in clarification of how AE/MS is responding to COVID now that there are positive cases within the school. She indicated her student did not want to attend that day due to COVID concerns. 

MacLean discussed work with the district nurses. Asymptomatic testing is being looked into. In supporting students who are absent due to COVID, AE/MS is not offering a concurrent program for students due to staffing issues and remote learning rules. AE/MS will ensure that assignments/resources are accessible and that communication is in place to support students in engaging in their work. 

A structure of remote check-ins is being investigated. Foley indicated that this is an extreme challenge for staff.

Stetson does not want to be pressured to send his students to school by the nurse or administration.

Heath added that previous blended (remote synchronous and in-person) learning has been challenging as a student, and the attention required of an online student puts a strain on the learning experience for physically present students.

Board Chairperson’s Report: Menard reminded the board that October 26 is the upcoming public meeting regarding the Tuition Review Committee presentation.

Principal’s Report: Dobe thanked the parents for coming in tonight and expressing their concerns. School has been in session for a little over a month. Teachers have been meeting regularly, and fall assessments have been completed to guide and support student learning and the Response to Intervention process.

A school safety initiative will be undertaken soon. Meeting times will be shared with the School Board as they are scheduled.

A process is being implemented to vet all curriculum items before they enter the school.

Athletic programs are in full swing, as well as clubs. We hope to perform the Wizard of Oz for the community, which is the play that the school was working on pre-pandemic, in March 2020. 

The school specialists have developed an innovative program to offer enrichment opportunities during lunch and recess for middle school students. This involves offerings such as photography, coding, drumming, etc.

Page reported that initial fall assessments are complete, and schedules have been finalized for AE/MS’s RTI intervention program. The AE/MS Special Education Procedures plan has been approved by the DOE. Title I compliance monitoring has also been submitted; we are waiting on determinations for that.

Audet is in the process of building the shed for new equipment.

The boiler system has a leak. Estimates are being gathered for fixing or replacing the unit. Jones asked how the leak was discovered; upon entering the boiler room, there was water on the floor.

Jones asked what our current policy is for students testing positive in regards to their quarantine. The school is following DHHS guidance, which includes: 10 days of quarantining and at least 24-hours of no symptoms (without the help of medication). Close household contacts also impact whether students are to be quarantined. Peers within the classroom are not considered to be close contacts in this scenario.

Jones asked whether getting testing kits would be useful in helping students to return to school. Some challenges include supplies and personnel for implementation. Jones asked if ASD has contacted Proctor to determine if there’s an opportunity for support there? No. 

Dobe indicated that this idea of testing within our school system is very new; this can be researched to determine if ASD can partner with Proctor. Test kits should be free through SASS and not be a financial burden to ASD.

Jones asked how students are being supported while remote? Dobe indicated that the model looks different depending on the grade level. AE/MS offers asynchronous learning opportunities. AE/MS is mandated to offer in-person learning to all students. 

Adams asked whether remote supports could be limited to whole classrooms of COVID-positive students? Compulsory attendance laws impact these decisions. The School Board fears teacher burnout. 

It was confirmed that AE/MS will not offer a remote option for the general populace; finding the line on these situations will be necessary to support teachers and student learning.

New Business

The boiler needs replacing. One of the sections of the boiler has failed, causing the leak. This issue has been on the radar for about three years. There are some funds saved for this ($60,000); the issue is not unexpected. 

Fixing the boiler will cost approximately $30,000, and replacing it would cost approximately $110,000. A boiler repair would cause the system to be down for a minimum of two weeks. It’s too late to appropriate money from last year’s fund balance. A variety of funding ideas were discussed. 

The current boiler was installed in 2004, and its last failure was in 2020. In Merrimack Valley, one of their boilers was fixed three different times, ultimately resulting in replacement. The issue for MV’s unit is a similar issue with our current boiler. 

If our unit is leaking, it is likely that all of the chambers within the boiler are at risk of leaking. The Board will need to determine whether to repair or replace the boiler and to consider other methods of heating. The immediacy of this need is coming upon us with the cold weather approaching. 

Audet reported the boiler is not on yet, but it can run and produce heat. The leak could potentially cause flooding in the basement level of AE/MS if not corrected. 

The School Board is looking for more information, but does not want to wait until the next Board meeting to make a determination. Audet will gather data. An emergency meeting will be authorized, and options will be presented to the Board.

Menard proposed to entertain a motion to collect quotes for both repair and replacement of the boiler, using a variety of heating sources, including a time frame. Adams made the motion and Dan made the second. All others were in favor, the motion was approved. 

Superintendent’s Report: Thanks to all for their continued hard work. Go Red Sox!