HANOVER – South Shore Tech had as “close to a normal school opening as we’ve had in a while” on Tuesday, Aug. 30, Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas Hickey told the School Committee at its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “A full, high-energy school is what people in education want to [be a part of] and that’s what I think we had to start out the year.”
Assistant Principal Sandra Baldner said most in the school – from students to administrators and staff – agreed that by the end of the first week, a day at SST felt “just like a warm October day.”
Directed study periods after school now offer more flexibility and independence for the ways students seek extra help or study, so long as respectful noise levels are maintained. Two teachers in every session allow faculty members more flexibility in how they work as well.
Co-curricular Fridays allow students to attend Student Council, Skills USA, Gay/Straight Alliance, Future Famers of America meetings and the like.
“They give students an opportunity to be involved who might not otherwise attend,” she said. “They still have an opportunity to meet after school and extend learning, but students who are interested can get a taste of it during the school day.”
Hall passes have also advanced – as E-Hall passes replace the traditional paper pass so teachers can track movement across the day.
“It is not a GPS system” Baldner stressed. “It just allows the school to see trends and patterns in movement beyond the classroom.”
A virtual all-student meeting has been started as well. The junior class used the virtual meeting to teach the student body to use the E-Hall passes. The video is archived to parents can watch and learn what’s going on in school, as well.
Principal Mark Aubrey reported on recruitment for School Councils – which are made up of students, parents and members of the community. The councils meet virtually.
“That’s where I’m looking right now,” he said of his search for community members. “We have a good core of students and parents … that are raring to go, wanting to talk about things such as our bullying plan and other things going on in the building.”
SST’s window replacement work has been proceeding with the panel work being done, Hickey said. While there have been some delays with some of the custom work on the panels, school officials are working to stay on top of the situation and it’s not interfering with school operations, he said.
A school finance workshop planned with Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Chapter 70 expert Roger Hatch, canceled when was unavailable, can be rescheduled now that “he is back on the grid” Hickey said.
Hickey will be communicating with member towns through select board offices and town administrators to remind them that the district wants to run the program and offer prospective dates – perhaps in late fall or winter – to review the Chapter 70 formula and how it works, either in-person or by Zoom. That would allow a more in-depth discussion when the district arrives at assessment numbers.
“The good news is we could use fiscal ’22 assessment data, for people who are getting in the weeds, not just us,” Hickey said. “In general, how are these numbers arrived at?”
Marshfield has also returned to consideration of joining the South Shore district, but the required negotiations including an amendment to the Regional Agreement, and DESE and Mass. Association of School Committees (ASC) review, won’t begin until there is a vote of the School Committee. It is not planned for consideration until November or December at this point.
Hickey does not envision it going before town meetings until the spring of 2023. Marshfield and two-thirds of existing member towns must vote to support the expansion before the commissioner of education sign off on it before the end of the calendar year to be effective July 1, 2024.
“It’s a long process, but we definitely have a timeline,” he said.
Hickey also reported that “things are moving forward” with the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) on the school’s renovation/expansion project.
“That is a relative term, but there is progress,” he said. He expects the next round of discussion will be on enrollment analysis, which could lead to renovation as-is, an eight-town model acknowledging that waiting lists must be addressed that allows a ceiling of 805 students, and a model that includes Marshfield with an enrollment ceiling of 975 students.
“They have said to me very politely that their mission is not to eliminate waiting lists,” Hickey said. “There is also the potential for reimbursement incentive points for expanding a region.”
He still has questions about that for which he is awaiting an answer from MSBA, he said.
“That’s exactly why getting the engineers involved,” he said. “You want to hire a firm that wants to be creative, because we’ve got size 10 ideas and a size 8 shoe.”
Feasibility study agreements are the next step, Hickey said, adding that he believes the MSBA will discuss the project next on Oct. 26 where there will be a recommendation to move the project to the next step and convene as a building committee and hire a project manager, which should take about three months. He doesn’t expect a project to be complete before the 2028-29 school year.