On April 8th, 2020, the Killingly Board of Education members met over Zoom to discuss certain items on their agenda. Certain points include the transition to remote online learning and an update, the budget timeline, healthy food options in public schools, and using the middle school as a testing site for the virus.
Superintendent Steven Rioux talks to the members of the board about how staff and students have transitioned to online learning. Before Governor Ned Lamont told schools that no one can physically be in schools, teachers have been putting together lesson plans and work from their homes. He said that teachers have been working hard to get their students into learning by using Google Classroom and Zoom. They have specific instructions on the public schools’ website for the four schools: Killingly Central, Memorial, Intermediate, and High Schools. Each meets at certain times and need to have certain work turned in by a time created to make online school easier for participants. Mr. Rioux also talked about distributing laptops and hotspots to students who do not own laptops or do not have sufficient access to internet. The school system has a certain amount of laptops and iPad’s that were handed out to students.
The members brought up the budget timeline, where they said different dates when the budget will be discussed and approved. April 25th, 2020 is going to be a joint meeting with the Town Council to review the budget presentation. There would be meetings until May 19th to review the budget with the Board of Ed and from June 1st to June 6th, the Town Council will deliberate and approve the budget. Governor Ned Lamont suspended in-person meetings instead of giving the power to the towns. The budget has not been presented to the town council then it can be voted on by the people.
The 2020-2021 budget that Superintendent Rioux proposed is $45 million with a 2.29% increase. They want to add a School Resource Officer in the high school, with a discussion to add security detail across the district. They also want to add money to create a turf field instead of a real grass field at the high school. Some more money would go into fixing the Memorial School since they do not have any air conditioning and the structure needs to be fixed. After this budget was proposed, a few members disagreed with it, saying that they need to remember the residents that will need to pay. Two members also weighed in on the idea of adding another school resource officer. A member, Hoween Flexer, said that Killingly does not need any officers with guns. There has not been one instance where there was an armed person needed. Jason Mascura opposed that idea and said that it is imperative to protect the students in this way in today’s time.
In the meeting, members talked about the lunch options the schools provide students. They say the three schools are following the Connecticut Nutrition Standards guidelines for the healthy food options in schools starting July 1, 2020 until June 30, 2021. This includes only serving students healthy options at breakfast and lunch and having these options in concession stands, vending machines and all fundraisers sponsored by the schools. To sell certain foods that do not meet the guidelines need to follow certain conditions. Some include having the sale in connections with an event after school or on weekends, it is at the location of the event, and the food/beverage item is not sold in vending machines or at school stores.
The last thing the members of the board talked about at the meeting was turning the middle school into a drive-thru testing site for COVID-19. The Killingly Intermediate School has been approved by the Northeast District Department of Health to be a spot where people can drive up and be tested for the virus. In the future, it can also be a place to drive up for the vaccine. In 2015, the NDDH held a drive-through flu clinic emergency training exercise. It worked efficiently and effectively and was a new way to distribute flu shots. This is very helpful for the virus because people can be tested in their cars instead of going to a hospital to be checked. This will help hospitals so only the ones that are at a high-risk can go.
This board has been in the local media for the wrong reasons since its election in November of 2019. At that time, this town had faced a huge controversial issue and was divided. The voting had shown how the town was and brought in more republicans than democrats. Most promised to bring a racist mascot name to the high school, which gave them more supporters. One member was found to be a part of a nationalist organization called the American Guard. They are a hate group, but he says he never realized they were while he was on the vice president of the Connecticut chapter. Residents found past Facebook posts from another member that were extremely racist. They have not said anything about this issue, but it is said he could be taken off the board.