While the hybrid model to be used by Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School resembles that to be used by Old Rochester Regional School District in name, Old Colony will only offer in-person learning on a hybrid model to its vocational-technical students, whereas strictly academic students will study on a fully remote platform.
Furthermore, Old Colony’s vocational-technical students will cycle on and off the school’s Rochester campus on a two-week cycle (ORR students will physically attend school two days per week). Old Colony will divide its vocational-technical student body into two groups.
“Grades 9/11 will attend one cycle, while grades 10/12 attend the other. This results in an approximate 50/50 split,” wrote Superintendent-Director Aaron Polansky in an email to The Wanderer.
Beginning September 9, Students will participate 7:40-10:30 am in orientation days. Here is the orientation schedule: Freshmen (last names A-K) on Wednesday, September 9; Freshman (last names L-Z) on Thursday, September 10; Juniors only on Friday, September 11; Sophomores only on Monday, September 14; and Seniors only on Tuesday, September 15.
According to information disseminated during the Old Colony Regional School Committee’s August 19 meeting, faculty may contact students, but the orientation days are not part of the school’s 170-day academic year that officially begins with the opening day of school on Wednesday, September 16.
In addressing the academic calendar during the August 19 meeting, Polansky said he overlooked April 2, 2021 (Good Friday), and said he had to add a day to the end of the school calendar to achieve the state requirement of 170.
Students attending the Rochester campus will be transported by First Student, the only bus company to bid on the transportation of Old Colony students, according to Business Manager Sarah Griffith.
Griffith reported nine vendors pulled the bid this year, but only one responded, a scenario she considers typical. First Student has been the district’s bus company for the past three school years.
The one bid asked for a five-year contract with what Griffith called “very fair pricing that I think the school district will be able to fit into our budget.” She recommended that the committee award First Student a five-year contract with two option years. The five-year contract was approved at the committee’s last meeting.
School Committee Chairperson Shirley Bourque was happy to see First Student continue with the Old Colony district. “Quite frankly, the experience we’ve had with First Student these last three years… this last contract, has been a very good relationship,” said Bourque.
“Their customer service… to the students, the parents, and the school district has been fantastic,” said Griffith. School Committee member Evelyn Bouley responded, “So you’re saying the one before was lousy?” Griffith reiterated her remarks referencing First Student.
Bouley, who had missed the school committee’s prior meeting due to a miscommunication, is opposed to the five-year term because “It’s just a big part of the budget,” she said. “It’s a lot of what we do and what we save and what we bring in and who we respect.”
Committee member Robert Marshall, representing Lakeville, pointed to the $4,170,610 pricetag and clarified with Griffith that the amount covers the five-year term. Griffith said option years will come up in School Committee in spring 2025.
Bouley’s was the lone opposing vote.
Jolene Costa proposed using the school’s website as the official posting location for public meetings and agendas, citing difficulties reaching the town clerks’ offices amidst staff shortages brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Costa clarified that, if Old Colony adopts her proposed measure, the affected towns do not have to post the meetings per state law.
“I just have to give (town clerks offices) the direction on where the public can find the posting,” she said. “Out of courtesy, I will still send postings to them and they can choose to file them, but they don’t have to post if they don’t want to.”
The School Committee approved the motion. Henceforth, Old Colony will post on its own website to maintain compliance with state Open Meeting law.
The School Committee approved two coronavirus-related proposals made by the Policy Subcommittee: The first is an (EBCFA) requirement to wear a facemask while in the school building even if maintaining a six-foot distance from other people (the state-mandated measure for mask requirement); the second outlines all of the policies with any amendments.
Polansky also discussed the school cafeteria, a self-funded program in need of creative ways to supplement lost income due to the pandemic. Meals will be made available for families to purchase, group dinners, and group lunches.
“If for some reason we have any concern… regarding revenues, we will revisit the data in September,” he told the committee, praising the work of Old Colony Nutrition Director Crystal Andrade. “What Crystal and Sarah (Griffith) have done to resurrect that program is really a beautiful thing, and it is a testament to Crystal’s management skills… She is truly the epitome of the person we want leading that charge.”
“I have a funny feeling the majority of the Bourque family will be having supper at Old Colony,” said Bourque, bringing laughter as she cited an opportunity to benefit the community. School Committee member Don Foster playfully suggested all Old Colony meetings becoming dinner meetings.
In answer to Rochester representative David Hughes’ question, “Will all the students be eating primarily in the cafeteria?” Polansky explained a staggered approach to ensure safe distancing. “What we’ve done is students who are not buying lunch during their lunch period will report immediately to the gymnasium,” he said. “We cannot fit every student into the cafeteria so there will be multiple shifts for eating” in two locations at a minimum 6 feet apart.
Gym classes will be held via the remote-learning portion of the curriculum.
The next meeting of the Old Colony Regional School District is scheduled to be held on September 16.
Old Colony Regional School Committee
By Mick Colageo