Angela Harkness on Oct. 6

Fingerprinting For School Trips Discussed

The following is a transcript from the Oct. 6, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For other parts of the transcript, click here. For a video recap, head to westfordcat.org

7:57 p.m. – Olsen then gave an informational update on awards given to a pair of teachers at the Abbot School by the VOYA Unsung Heroes program.

He also gave an update on the award recently given by Nerdwallet calling Westford the best school district in Massachusetts in terms of best educational return on investment.

7:59 p.m. – Ryan then said he attended the Public Works Initiative Committee meeting and said that they were interested in how schools track maintenance work.

There’s also a traffic study going on at Forge Village and Coldspring Road that could impact high school traffic.

Ryan also attended the Stony Brook curriculum night provided praise for the teachers.

He also noted that there may be hunting near the Stony Brook School. Olsen said he had talked to Selectman Kelly Ross, a member of a committee looking at an upcoming hunting policy recommendation.

Clay said that the committee had looked at making sure hunting on that parcel did not occur during cross country season and that there would be a meeting on Oct. 14 about the issue.

Benoit said he attended a meeting at Westford Academy regarding seniors and parents and said it was very helpful.

Angela Harkness on Oct. 6

Angela Harkness on Oct. 6

School Committee member Angela Harkness said she was at the same event, only for sophomores and juniors and likewise praised the event.

Student representatives then told the board that they had also gotten very positive feedback from parent night and said everyone enjoyed it.

Kohl also praised the night and then talked a question about Student Advisory Committees.

Olsen said that it has been discussed and he has been at the Blanchard Student Advisory Committee recently.

On that note, Olsen asked for more of an academic slant for school improvement plans coming.

Kohl then said that she looked at target ratios for classrooms and asked if there is any process for classroom size optimization, particularly at the Stony Brook School.

Olsen said there would be a meeting on the meeting and that the key method for optimization is redistricting, and the kindergarten citizens’ committee’s findings may impact that.

Kohl then asked for volunteers on the policy subcommittee, currently she is the only member on it.

Olsen said that it’s a very important subcommittee as it looks at how the Police Department interacts with students.

Lastly, Kohl said she had gotten calls from parents over the fingerprinting policy and asked if a second grade class trip had been cancelled due to this as well as a Theater Arts event.

Olsen said he would verify that. What he has told to administrators is that when there is an external trip with chaperones, those trips require fingerprinting, as well as an overnight trip to a home or a camp.

However, events where a staff member is likely to be nearby, those events would not require fingerprinting.

He hopes that the policy would become inhibiting, and it has a cost, but there is a cost for safety.

Kohl then said that parents have hoped that the policy would be rolled out more gradually.

She then impacted that any policy that impacts so many parents comes to the School Committee first, specifically so there could be a larger review.

Olsen said that specialists did come to Westford over the summer to talk about the new statewide policy, but they are overwhelmed so it is unlikely they will come back soon.

He then said that if there is a chance that someone could be alone with students late at night, such as with the Theater Arts program, those people must be fingerprinted or the event won’t happen.

Benoit then made a comment regarding what the Boy Scouts do saying that two adults are always together to avoid such situations.

Olsen said it would be looked at, but there needs to be consistency.

Benoit said he has spent a lot of time with the Theater Arts program and their only chaperones are drivers. He also said that the fingerprinting only costs $35 and takes half an hour, sharing his experience getting fingerprinted.

School Committee member David Keele then said that the Committee has worked definitively to work for the safety of children and that fingerprinting is not a burden to provide for the safety of children.

Kohl said she wasn’t talking about the burden, but about the clarity of the policy.

Olsen then made a statement and then Murray said that some parents do not have sustainable income for fingerprinting do want to be chaperones and hoped that there could be help for those people.

Olsen said that’s dangerous because it could be a tremendous cost burden since it’s their personal record, although she understood what she is saying.

Student representative Will O’Neal then gave an update.

Clay then gave an update on some things that will come forward at upcoming meetings.