The School Committee recently voted unanimously to allow the Everett High School Marching Band to travel to Hawaii to perform at the 80th Pearl Harbor Ceremony next month. Although the committee approved the trip in January of this year, Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani said it would have been mendacious on her part to assume that the January approval was still valid. Prior to the November 1 meeting, it was rumored that the trip would be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 numbers that spiked in Hawaii two months ago. Therefore, band members and other individuals felt it was necessary to voice their opinions.
“They chose the Everett Crimson Tide Marching Band for a reason,” said senior band member Emma Santos. “There are many marching bands in Massachusetts, but we were specifically chosen for this trip because we have a reputation for representing both our city and our state with decorum and pride.”
Santos said the band has travelled to Washington, D.C., and Dayton, Ohio, without incident. “These are not uncharted waters for us; we are a well-oiled machine,” she said. “The safety of our members is always our top priority whether we’re five miles away or 5,000 miles away.”
Senior band member Lisa Hurley spoke about the importance of travelling to Pearl Harbor. “This isn’t just another field trip; we were chosen to represent all of Massachusetts and to showcase our talents,” she said. “Now we have been given this great honor and it’s being questioned.”
Although initially reluctant to send his son on the trip, Oscar Vega said, his opinion has changed in recent weeks. “I no longer have concerns,” he said, adding that he would be “extremely heartbroken” if the trip was cancelled. “I, 100 percent, have confidence in the staff to make sure that our kids are going to remain safe.”
Ward 5 School Committee Member Marcony Almeida-Barros said he is much more comfortable after reviewing Hawaii’s updated COVID-19 data. “Hawaii’s pretty safe; the numbers are decreasing,” he said.
Ward 6 Councillor Michael McLaughlin remembered watching the band perform two years ago in Washington, D.C. “You can’t imagine what it feels like seeing our local band in a national parade,” he said.
In addition, Tahiliani said anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 during the trip will remain in Hawaii and will be quarantined for 14 days. “They will not be able to leave their hotel room for any reason,” she said, adding that meals would be delivered. Also, if anyone tests positive for the virus within 72 hours of leaving for Hawaii, that individual will need to remain at home.
However, Tahiliani said she is confident that the trip will go according to plan. “I steadfastly believe that students will follow all rules and procedures,” she said.
Social emotional support and ESSER funding
In other news, Tahiliani said the district has engaged the Riverside Trauma Center in Dedham in the ongoing effort to curb violent outbursts among students. As a result, she said, new safety procedures are in place and the environment at Everett High School has improved.
Tahiliani also spoke about the preliminary results of the survey regarding the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. Although the survey is still available on the district’s website, Tahiliani said that thus far 82 percent of the respondents want the $13 million from ESSER to be used to bolster mental health services as well as career and technical education.
Tahiliani said for the month of October 52 residents in the 0-19 age group tested positive for COVID-19. By comparison, 82 cases were reported in September. Regarding the vaccination rates, she said 61 percent of students ages 12-15 are fully vaccinated while 68 percent of students ages 16-19 are fully vaccinated.