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School Committee discusses school closures on upcoming election days

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Update provided on migrant children living in Everett hotel, shelter


By Neil Zolot


EVERETT – Classes will be cancelled in Everett’s schools on Tuesday, March 5, for the Presidential Primary Election, including Everett High School, announced Superintendent of Schools William Hart. Many of the schools are used as polling places, creating potential traffic problems if schools are in session, although the High School is not. “It’s in our best interest to close,” Supt. Hart told the School Committee at their meeting on Monday, February 5. “The unions’ position is if you close some schools, you should close them all and the MASS Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education has directed us not to conduct any testing or test prep that day,” a reference to concerns raised by At-Large members Samantha Hurley, Samantha Lambert and Ward 4 member Robin Babcock that High School students would lose a day for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test prep at the January 18 meeting.

At that meeting Lambert asked if the High School could remain open, to allow opportunities for students to have MCAS prep tutoring at another time to make up for the lost day. Hart answered that the High School principal agreed there would be.

Ward 5 member Marcony Almeida-Barros voted against the idea, saying he believes voter turnout will be so low there wouldn’t be any disruption, but school closure would force working parents, often both in a family, to make arrangements for someone to watch their children, possibly a financial burden. His opinion may be based on less than 20% of voters voting in the most recent local election for City Council and School Committee seats (November 7) and only 12% voted in the preliminary election on September 19.

February 19-23 is school vacation week, but the Parlin, Keverian, Lafayette and Whittier Schools will be open for the February Adventure Academy from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. It is not an edition of the Acceleration Academy, which has been held during previous vacations and over the summer. Students will receive small group support and academic instruction from Everett teachers, overseen by Manager of Extended Learning Heather McCormack. Daily activities will also include enrichment, such as Lego art and outdoor exploration. It’s free and breakfast and lunch will be provided. Hart reported that over 430 students have signed up and there is room for more.

Additional discussion was prompted by a request from Almeida-Barros for an update on homeless students and agreements with YouthHarbors, a homeless youth advocacy wing of the Justice Resource Institute. Hart reported there are 249 homeless students, defined as those in hotels, shelters or couch surfing, usually with friends or relatives. That includes 52 immigrant students staying in hotels, primarily enVision Hotel, which is located at 1834 Revere Beach Parkway. He said that the numbers are fluid because people are in and out of housing.

Fifteen of the homeless students are involved with YouthHarbors. Others are working with other organizations. “As we go back to our warm homes, we have to think that 249 kids don’t have the same comfort,” Almeida-Barros reacted. “It’s important for the public to know that.”

He’s advocating for the city and school department to increase its $30,000 appropriation from state aid to help those students. “We should look at how to invest in the program to double the number of kids we’re able to fund,” he feels. “My hope is we either increase the allocation of our own aid or identify other sources of funds.”

A few years ago, it was $40,000 through a grant from the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance.

“Being in shelters doesn’t help students in thinking about homework,” Almeida-Barros thinks.

“Housing insecurity also affects academic performance,” Lambert added, referring to students in homes, but in families having trouble paying rent or facing foreclosure. “It’s something to keep in mind when we’re looking at the budget and what we can do proactively.”

The members also approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Brookline Center for Community Mental Health to provide counseling for students transitioning back to school after hospitalization. The specific program is Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition. “There’s no cost other than providing space,” Hart said. “We’ve already been designated the funds through the state Department of Mental Health. It’s a national model. More than 200 high schools use it.”

Quiet space in the High School library will be set aside for the program, by agreement with Library Coordinator Mary Puleo.

“It sounds wonderful,” Ward 2 member Joanna Garren reacted.

The meeting had a low-key atmosphere. Less than a dozen people attended and only five spoke in Public Participation.

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