By: Sarah Yi — Editor-in-Chief
Student Council held a meeting with Principal Mr. Joe Scozzaro and Vice Principals Ms. Elizabeth Gavin and Dr. Nick Schlierf on November 10 where students got their questions answered and their suggestions heard. Many topics from mask breaks to schedule changes were discussed.
Scozzaro says there is always going to be misbehavior when the adults aren’t looking. “I realized that students are going to see it more than adults see it because if a student wants to take off their mask, they’re going to do it when they look around and make sure there are only students around,” he said.
The administration has been interviewing candidates for two potential positions — Building Support Specialists. ”Building support specialists will be helping the administration with being out and about during passing times and in the cafeteria to help us ‘extend our eyes,’” said Scozzaro.
He says the best way to approach the students taking off their mask situation is to talk to every student who is seen taking off their mask. “I don’t want to take a heavy, hard approach with discipline and consequences because we all understand how frustrating it can be to wear a mask all day long and do the simple things,” he added.
“The students of Sharon High have been fantastic so far about doing their best and responding,” said Scozzaro. He says when kids each lunch with their friends and they sit closer without a mask, we have to be there to remind them to keep six feet distance because they are de-masked. This is just to keep your friends, yourself, and your family safe because “that is at the forefront of our minds at all times.”
Scozzaro says it is not possible to mandate mask breaks during class. “The teacher is the expert and the preeminent authority in the classroom, so I would ask students to politely make that request to the teacher,” Scozzaro added. He says it is just too much of a nightmare from the administrative side to say “30 minutes into every block, we’re going to have an official mask break.”
Scozzaro says the reality is that there is not a lot of space for mask breaks. “We actually benefit from the staggered nature of it, and teachers doing it randomly when it works for them in their lesson and for their students,” he added.
“Remember, teachers are trying to spread their love of learning and their love of that subject and they get caught up with all that that they forget about things that are that mundane,” said Scozzaro. He says treating mask breaks like restroom breaks is more reasonable than having a specific time for all classes to go on a mask break.
Recently, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker set a new mandate that says masks must be worn outdoors. Scozzaro says this mandate will not impact masks breaks because there is an exception to that order for schools.
“But again, students have to remember that mask breaks doesn’t mean that the universe doesn’t pause for them. You got to remember that if you’re doing a mask break, you got to maintain that six feet of distance. You can’t still be shoulder to shoulder, you must make an effort to spread out,” added Scozzaro.
There have been many instances where students have had to wait a while to enter the virtual main office zoom and were wondering if there was another method of taking attendance more efficiently. “We can’t have attendance through google form or email because that’s a recipe for disaster, for fraud. I’m not saying that students would take advantage of it but the whole purpose is we have to have visual confirmation live and in real-time that the student is present,” added Scozzaro.
He says he is open to suggestions from students, especially those in directed study. “I will ask her [Ms. Sexton] if it is okay if students in directed study could come in at the beginning of class because we have to have the ten-minute rule for the teachers,” Scozzaro said. He says sometimes things happen so the ten-minute rule is given to teachers so they have a time cushion between classes.
“The problem is that it sometimes takes Ms. Sexton a while to get through the list because there might be a lot of students. So there might be ways for us to figure out how to spread out so everybody doesn’t come in at once and that all of a sudden she has to go through 50 people,” added Scozzaro.
He says sometimes he knows ahead of time when a teacher is absent but he needs to figure out a way to get that information to the students a little bit earlier instead of the start of class. “I will talk with Ms. Gavin, Dr. Shlierf, and Ms. Sexton to see if there are ways to improve that process because we certainly don’t want students waiting 45 minutes just to say ‘I’m here,’” said Scozzaro. He says it is in everybody’s interest to try and fix that issue.
Many students were wondering if Wednesday’s schedule could be pushed back so they have a chance to sleep in. “Having Wednesday scheduled be pushed an hour back is completely understandable but not possible. Mainly because we already started the year and the teachers do scheduled activities in the afternoon and we have to honor that,” added Scozzaro.
He says many meetings are already scheduled for their times and it is hard to ask people to reschedule for students to get an extra hour of sleep. Scozzaro says he can’t wait for the first Wednesday full in-person day. “I think Wednesdays have been the surprisingly interesting thing about the new hybrid schedules and we should appreciate it because it might be like a unicorn who disappears into the magic forest and never returns,” Scozzaro said.
Juniors questioned if they could leave after their last class, just like seniors do. Scozzaro says all that would do is anger the sophomores and will end up in an “if they get it then why can’t we get it” type of situation. “So to preserve the uniqueness of senior privilege, it will remain a senior-only privilege, and juniors will have it next year,” he added.
“An answer has come through our HVAC experts and our facilities folks that teachers can close windows on cold days so the heat has a chance to warm up the rooms,” he said. Scozzaro says as long as the air purifiers are functioning and on, the windows may be closed as the weather gets colder. He says the air purifiers have been selected because of their capacity for the sizes of our classrooms so they are able to exchange and purify the air appropriately.
He says it is up to the teachers whether or not they want to close their windows, but some just prefer to leave them open for extra security. Scozzaro emphasizes that it is not necessary to keep the windows open the entire time and that the air purifiers do enough.
Scozzaro is looking to form a schedule committee who will be in charge of figuring out a new schedule for when students transfer to the new school. They will not be making changes to the current schedule. “It will be a year-long, monthly meeting kind of committee. I would love it if we had four students, maybe one from each grade to represent. We are planning on starting those meetings up in December. Student voice and input is super important,” said Scozzaro.
Many teachers have pinned an anonymous google form in their classes Schoology page for students to fill out as a check-in on their mental health. “It is a good idea and there are already teachers who are already doing it and it is a positive thing, we can certainly talk to the teachers and encourage them to encourage each other to get that feedback from you. I know it is not something we can mandate but we certainly can encourage,” said Schlierf.
Gavin says there will be a link on the new website to an anonymous tip line where everyone can write whatever they want. “I wouldn’t want there to be too many sources and we miss something but there is still that anonymous tipline available to all families and staff,” Gavin said.
Gavin says if we do hit a point where we will have to quickly shift to remote, the administration is ready if it happens because they have already planned for it over the summer.
Unfortunately, many seniors want some resemblance of normalcy and for many normal traditions to happen during their last year in Sharon. Gavin says right now we are mainly guided by what is safe, which means these typically senior traditions will not be able to happen as for now. “It is definitely something I would want to bring back but we are just guided by the safety mandates. I love working with the Senior Class Planning Board to see what’s possible,” added Gavin. She says she is trying to get as many clubs out there and running as possible.
School dances and school-wide events are something students always look forward to. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many were wondering if they would still be able to happen. “It all depends on the health and safety and the matrix and now they would say absolutely not. But, we will see what happens as the school year continues,” said Schlierf.
“The governor and the commissioner of education know the value of in-person learning and they want to get as many kids back into the school as possible but they are not going to sacrifice the health and safety of the children just to say they got them back into school,” said Schlierf. He says it will be a long process but the end goal is to get everybody back in school, five days a week, seven hours a day, and doing school “like we’ve done it for hundreds of years.”
Schlierf says that is the end goal but no one is in a rush to push people back into full in-person learning without a vaccine in place for the safety of everybody involved. He emphasizes that it won’t happen overnight.
“Sharon actually did a lot of work before school started as far as our technology and our hybrid plans. Now we are in a good place where other communities are scrambling around to fix their exhaust systems and their bandwidth whereas Sharon is kind of ahead of the game, but just like Dr. Schlierf said, the safety of the kids is number one,” said Gavin.