Interim Supt. Reports Vaccination Rates Among HPS Students; Permanent Supt. Update Shared

Photo by Joshua Ross

November 16, 2021 By Carol Britton Meyer

Nearly 50 members of the community participated in Monday's two-hour remote School Committee meeting, with student vaccination statistics, an update on the search for a permanent Hingham Public Schools superintendent, and proposed changes to the town's financial policy topping the agenda.

Interim Supt. of Schools Gary Maestas reported that school officials were able to obtain student vaccination information from the state's data base, which showed the following vaccination rates to date: sixth-graders, 18 percent; seventh-graders, 74 percent; 8th-graders, 65 percent; middle schoolers, 51 percent; and 80 percent of Hingham High School students. The sixth-grade number could increase now that children ages 5 through 11 are eligible to get vaccinated if their parents so choose.

These statistics are being gathered because under the public schools mandate issued by Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Riley last August -- requiring all K-12 public schools students ages five and older, educators, staff, and visitors to wear face masks until at least Oct. 1 in order to provide time to increase the vaccination rate in school buildings -- was recently extended until Nov. 1 or later, at Riley's discretion.

The commissioner’s initial policy called for allowing middle and high schools to potentially lift the mask mandate for vaccinated students and staff only after Oct. 1 if they reached a certain vaccination threshold – that at least 80 percent of students and staff, combined, in a school building are vaccinated.

Resident Ryan Lynch asked if -- based on the most current statistics showing that 80 percent of students at the high school are vaccinated -- the HPS plans to submit an application to the appropriate education officials at the state level asking for the ability to lift the mask mandate at the high school.

Maestas explained that there has to be a combined 80 percent vaccination rate among not only students but also among teachers, and this data has not yet been collected.
That's because the Hingham Education Association needs to approve any such collection of data related to educators.

A meeting participant asked whether, that being the case, vaccinated students at the high school could be allowed to go mask-free while maintaining the mask requirement for teachers.

Such a move would not be implemented, Maestas said, reiterating that the 80 percent threshold has to be met "across the board through a combination of students and teachers."
School officials are working with the HEA to come up with a plan to potentially collect teacher vaccination data. "It's an ongoing discussion," Maestas said. "We're working toward that answer."

Laura Accettella said she was pleased that the Middle School held a vaccination clinic last June when most of that age group became eligible and wondered whether a clinic could be offered for newly-eligible 5- to 11-year-old students "to get those [vaccination] numbers up."

The town has not asked the School Department to hold such a clinic to date, Maestas said. "It's extremely cumbersome for our school nurses to offer this service while also managing the regular needs of their schools. But if the town asks us to offer one, we will work through our [health officials] to offer something in the community."

In other business at the meeting:

  • Joseph King noted during the public comment period that the result of what he called an "informal canvassing of South Shore School Committee meetings" showed that 5 out of those 7 have resumed in-person meetings.

Noting that the Nov. 18 Board of Health meeting is scheduled to be held in-person, he asked why the School Committee is continuing to conduct meetings using the Zoom platform.

"What is the metric that you are looking to achieve before you resume in-person meetings?" he asked.

Because the SC listens to but doesn't respond to public comments at the time they are made, King's question remained unanswered for the time being.

 Superintendent search update:

  • School Committee member Liza O'Reilly provided an update on the permanent superintendent search, reporting that the screening committee met recently to hear about what the process entails, to identify dates to schedule interviews, and to discuss questions they might ask of the candidates now that the application deadline has passed

The screening committee is reviewing the applications that have been received and will schedule interviews through the end of November. The finalists will be announced during the first week of December, and those who wish to continue to be considered (the process from then on will be a public one) will be interviewed during a public School Committee meeting. At that time, the public will have an opportunity to also ask questions.

The New England School Development Council is providing assistance in the search for a permanent superintendent under an agreement with the School Committee.

NESDEC also conducted a search that resulted in the earlier hiring of Paul Austin, who resigned from the superintendent of schools position last summer.

  • Advisory Committee Chair Robert Curley presented proposed changes to the town's financial policy, which he called "a living document over many years" that includes input from past and present school committees, select boards, "and many members of the Advisory Committee." The policy is reviewed by the Advisory Committee every three years.

Members George Danis and Caitlyn Kirk also participated in the remote meeting.

School Committee members asked questions and made suggested changes. The Select Board will hear a similar presentation at their Tuesday meeting.

"This is a draft, subject to revision," Curley said. "We also welcome comments from the public as well."

Proposed changes relate in part to providing guidance for the use of town financial resources in emergency circumstances,  highlighted by special financial needs related to the pandemic; the potential for an operational override(s); and capital expenditures, among others.

3 thoughts on “Interim Supt. Reports Vaccination Rates Among HPS Students; Permanent Supt. Update Shared”

    • This simply is not true. There is plenty of data at this point, both from clinical trials and from real-world conditions, that the available vaccines are both safe and effective. The Centers for Disease Control provides an excellent overview of the matter, along with links to the studies and actual data, online:

      If you have actual data that states otherwise, by all means, share it. Otherwise, stop spreading what can only be described as dangerous misinformation.

  1. Paul,

    Your government is telling us that if you are vaccinated, you should still wear a mask, because you can both contract and spread Covid. But the government also tells us that the unvaccinated should get vaccinated because the vaccine is “remarkably safe and effective”. Both of these things cannot be true.


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