The town of Westford School Committee meeting on Monday, February 14 covered many important topics and addressed recent news happening in Westford.
These included the recent incident at the Westford Academy vs. Wayland High School girls basketball game, a vote on extending the school’s transportation contract, a vote to approve tuition-free full-day Kindergarten for the 2022-2023 school year, and a vote on extending the school mask mandate.
Incident at Westford vs. Wayland Girls Basketball Game (23:45)
The meeting opened with the public comments and informational updates before leading into the first topic on the agenda, addressing the racial abuse at the Westford Academy vs. Wayland High School girls basketball game earlier this month.
Superintendent Christopher Chew announced that the School Committee has created a draft resolution to be voted on, regarding how the perpetrators of the racial abuse at the girls basketball game earlier this month will be dealt with.
There were many talks of initiating restorative justice, which is a process where both the perpetrators and victims will meet and discuss how harm was brought upon the community.
School Committee member Chris Sanders explained that the aim of restorative justice is to focus on what harm was caused and who was the most affected by the harmful actions and behavior, and then stating how the harm will be addressed and who will be held responsible for it.
Sanders said that the reason for opting for restorative justice is that it is more inclusive of the victims who are the most affected by the harmful actions and behavior. This would include the player from the Wayland High School girls basketball team who was the target of racial abuse from Westford Academy students.
“We need to understand what her needs are, and how this has impacted her,” Sanders said. “Additionally, we need to understand how this impacts the Wayland High School community, as well as our community here in Westford,” he added. “Once you have that, you look to the people who are responsible, and ask them how they should address what they have done.”
Sanders explained that these are some of the reasons why the process of restorative justice is “much more open and inclusive,” as it is meant “to repair the harm that has been brought to the community,” and allows those “who are responsible to take accountability” and “work to repair the harm they have done.”
The School Committee then read aloud their draft resolution regarding the incident and unanimously voted to adopt their resolution apologizing for the incident and pledging to begin the restorative justice process.
Vote on the Transportation Contract (1:13:15)
The next item on the agenda for the School Committee was a vote on whether or not to extend the current Transportation Contract.
Following a short discussion on the status of the current Transportation Contract with Westford Public Schools, the School Board held a vote on whether or not to extend the contract to the next school year.
The contract stated that the current funds dedicated to transportation for the schools would include $414 for regular transportation run, $85 per kindergarten midday run, $135 per run for after school activities, $4 per mile for athletic run, $55 an hour per wait time for athletic run, and $250 trip minimum for athletic run.
The extension of the Transportation Contract was also unanimously approved after a vote was held by the School Committee.
Vote on tuition-free full-day Kindergarten for the next school year (1:21:45)
Up next in the agenda for the School Committee was the motion to begin tuition-free full-day kindergarten for the next school year.
The plan to extend kindergarten classes to a full-day length came as part of the discussion regarding Westford Public School’s new budget for the 2022-2023 school year.
Many members agreed that it was worth the investment as they thought that it was important for kindergartners to have a full-day school experience in order to prepare them for what is to come in the first and second grade.
The School Committee then decided to vote on the subject, with all members approving the action to begin tuition-free full-day kindergarten for the next school year.
COVID-19 Update (2:15:50)
The final topic on the agenda for the School Committee was an update regarding COVID-19 protocols and whether or not the mask mandate for Westford Public Schools will expire on February 28, in accordance to the new statewide protocol, or whether the mask mandate will be extended until March 4.
The mask mandate has been a contentious topic in Westford, not only in regards to the School Committee but also at the Board of Health meetings as well.
There was a long discussion on whether or not to extend the mask mandate to March 5, which would be a week after the statewide mask mandate is set to expire, but with the consideration of February Break coming right before the mandate was set ti expire, the vote on the topic was very contentious.
The final vote was 4-3, with the majority of the School Committee casting votes in favor of the extension. Chris Sanders, Alicia Mallon, Gloria Miller, and Kathryn Clear voted in favor of extending the mandate, while Sean Kelly, Mingquan Zheng, and Valery Young casted dissenting votes.
The full February 14 School Committee Meeting can be watched here: