While the Westford Planning Board discussed a proposed asphalt plant just off Groton Road, the Westford School Committee also discussed that asphalt plant as well as a variety of other issues at their Monday meeting.
Most notably, the School Committee heard additional comments from concerned parents over the amount of homework for kindergartners and using a full-day curriculum to half-day kindergarten students.
At a previous meeting, a discrepancy was shown between kindergarten homework at different schools ranging from none to as multiple pages per night.
The issue was last studied in depth by the School Department in 2001, although Westford School Superintendent Bill Olsen indicated that he and Assistant Superintendent Kerry Clery had recently discussed potentially overburdening kindergartners with school principals and would continue to do so.
Clery and Olsen specifically noted that the ideal cap for any homework given to kindergartners should be 10 minutes, although that figure could be exceeded for special projects or other topics that the kindergartners indicate they enjoy.
School Committee Member David Keele expressed concern over any policy relating to kindergarten homework, citing that discretion over homework amounts, if any, should be left in the hands of educators.
Olsen and others on the board indicated that guidelines were pursued due to concerns of parents at that time, with School Committee Chairman Tom Clay citing his opinion that any policy would not be made simply for policy’s sake.
With changes due to new Common Core standards, and Olsen’s view that full-day kindergarten may become mandated by the state, it appears that further discussion on topic will occur at some point in the upcoming months.
Concerns from parents over communication problems at the Abbot School were also addressed, with interim principal Kathy Huntley sharing new initiatives in recent weeks.
Specifically, she told the board about a new program that helps students share their opinions during cafeteria time as well as increased discussion between teachers over best practices for newsletters sent to parents.
While Huntley said that there have been several meetings with parents and groups of teachers, a meeting of all faculty to discuss the topic.
The communication initiative arose in light of a delay over informing parents about alleged incidents involving a former substitute teacher improperly disciplining students as well as not shielding other children from the allegations.
While board members and parents in attendance in general had praise for the efforts by administration at the Abbot School, they still noted that improvement was needed in certain areas, such as communication over the long-term absence of Vito Umbro, who is out on paternity leave.
Other issues discussed included a recap on recent STEM Fairs at several lower grade schools in town, a new club at Westford Academy, highlights from the Westford Academy visual arts department and a new capital reserve fund for the Valley Collaborative to name a few.
In particular, the School Committee voiced their general disapproval for the proposed asphalt plant, which would be located near two schools. However, information on the proposed plant was limited among administrators and members of the board, with OIsen indicating he would obtain more information on the issue from Westford Director of Land Use Planning Chris Kluchman.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for May 4.
CORRECTION: The interim principal of the Abbot School is Kathy Huntley, not Denise Huntley.