HANOVER — The South Shore Regional School District Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 14 voted to support an out-of-state field trip aimed at showing some love — in the form of still much-needed home repairs — to New Jersey victims of the 2012 Superstorm Sandy during part of April vacation week.
“This is a pioneering effort on the part of the school to participate in a service/learning project,” said Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey.
Science teacher and Student Council advisor Matthew Fallano said the project comes after frequent requests for a student trip.
“But it’s not in our nature to go on a pleasure cruise with our students,” he said. “We were looking for something a little more co-curricular — something that went along with our own mission statement.”
Students taking part in the trip will be putting their skills to work to benefit a community, an effort Fallano said has been in the planning stages for about four years.
“Even though it sounds a little bit strange, they’re still rebuilding after Sandy,” Fallano said. “Our students will be spending part of their vacation building a home.”
The school will be working with a company that coordinates with AmeriCorps, with 20 students and four faculty members will be leaving the Friday before April vacation starts and return mid-week with an original cost of $300 per student. School transportation and food is helping control the cost, bringing it down to $250 each — and the Parent’s Association has donated $1,500, so the trip will be even more affordable. Another parent is working to organize a meat raffle on either March 2 or March 9 to help with costs.
“It’s a wonderful project that [lets] students really get a feel for what they are doing and kind of get an idea for how things come together in the field,” said Cohassett representative George Cooney, whose church does similar volunteer work with an Appalachian service project in Kentucky. “It’s a real eye-opener for the students. It’s certainly a help to the community down there.”
He said the project would provide a sense of satisfaction in helping others while providing a chance for practical application of their skills and that the difficulty in rounding up 20 volunteers this time will not be a problem going forward.
“I think it’s going to feed on itself,” Cooney said. “I think it’s going to be limited seating in the future.”
Whitman representative Dan Salvucci also suggested that the 20 who have volunteered be publicly thanked.
“When we have our graduation it might be nice to have those students who do go there stand up to get applause for donating their time and their vacation to help people in another community,” he said.
The committee also discussed the potential for students to assist with school renovations as part of its discussion of a recently completed master facilities audit. Hickey said he would be referring to the audit frequently as he integrates it with the existing capital plan.
“I want to identify those recommendations that … could be stand-alone projects that maybe we could fund on our own, pluck off this list, do and be done with,” he said. “I also wanted to note any of these items that they would recommend we don’t try to attack piecemeal, but instead look at as part of a larger project.”
The latter would include items best sought-after as part of an MSBA project.
“In some of these smaller projects, is there a possibility that our students could do it?” Salvucci asked. “It would be a learning experience. … Not only would it save the school money, but just think how they would feel saying to themselves, ‘I helped build — or renovated — that school.’”
Hickey said in most cases the answer would likely be no due to licensing requirements, but there is at least one — the repainting of exterior steel columns they could do. Installation of ADA-accessible sinks in some shops could be another. In others, students would at least be able to observe work where a professional license is required.
The committee voted to approve submission of a statement of interest letter to the MSBA to address severe overcrowding; prevention of severe overcrowding expected from increased enrollment; replacement, renovation or modernization of facilities to increase energy conservation and decrease costs and for replacement of, or addition to, obsolete buildings to provide a full range of programs.
In other business, the committee honored Adjustment Counselor Michelle Craig as the SSVT Staff Member of the Month.
“As an adjustment counselor, Michelle deals with many of our students in some of the worst moments of their lives,” said Assistant Principal Mark Aubrey. “It could be the breakup of a first love — it was Valentine’s Day, she was very busy today — an issue on the home front, including the death of a family member or friend, or a traumatizing event in the student’s personal life.”
Craig has worked at SSVT since September 2016 and has been an integral part of the school’s focus on the social-emotional wellbeing of students.
“Mrs. Craig is always upbeat,” one student said. “Sometimes that’s enough.”
“She actually helps with your problem — I appreciate that,” said another.
“She is always there when I need her, even if it’s a simple e-mail to acknowledge that I’m here,” still another wrote in nominating Craig.
“She has the smallest office, but she has the biggest heart,” another student said.