Falmouth Schools Working on Inclusion, Diversity

FALMOUTH – Falmouth School Committee members recently updated selectmen on their ongoing efforts to improve various aspects of the education system.

Natalie Kanellopoulos, Chair of the School Committee and Superintendent of Falmouth Schools Dr. Lori Duerr spoke before the board outlining three goals the committee discussed over the summer.

They’re trying to promote equity and inclusion among all community subgroups amidst the reopening of public schools.

The stated goals are to develop and implement a multi-year communication strategy for audiences in the district, to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding around equity, access, inclusion, and diversity, and to support the superintendent’s efforts to keep schools open and safe.

The committee has assigned a lead person to each goal to offer periodic reports assessing progress related to their stated goals.

In accordance with the stated goals, the committee has organized professional development courses in Cultural Proficiency, Restorative Practices, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Action for teachers and other employees in the district.

The committee also highlighted their relationship with the Wampanoag Nation in anticipation of Indigenous Peoples Day, sharing a land acknowledgment for the tribe and previewing dance performances and cultural education planned alongside the Wampanoag tribe to honor the day at Falmouth schools.

“Falmouth public schools acknowledges that we are gathering on the unceded ancestral land of the Wampanoag Nation,” said Kanellopoulis.

“We recognize and respect the Wampanoag people,” she said, “including those of Suckanesset, Waquoit, Sippewissett, Tataket and Chapoquoit as original stewards of what is now known as the Town of Falmouth and honor their enduring relationship with this land.”

The committee plans to integrate Wampanoag history into the school curriculum.

They also discussed their connection with the Cape Cod Cape Verdean Museum and Cultural Center, with field trips and performances planned in conjunction with the museum to increase exposure to Cape Verdean history and its relation to Cape Cod.

The committee discussed a shortage of bus drivers, which has led to the alteration of busing routes in the area, as well as labor shortages in the food service department which have caused delays in food deliveries.

“Our Food Service Department is working very hard to make sure that whatever we can get, we’re providing those nutritious meals that we’re committed to, but the shortages are real,” said Duerr.

The committee reported that they were awarded a grant of $1.3 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority to aid in the costs associated with the roof replacement project at Teaticket Elementary School, as well as about $3.4 million in anticipated grant funding through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CVRF) and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ESSER) to support the safe reopening and sustained operations of Falmouth schools.

The board also addressed the ongoing COVID pandemic, noting that mask mandates are currently in effect in Falmouth schools, as well as Test and Stay Programs to provide on site testing for students in schools.

Vaccination rates in Falmouth High school have reached 68%, while Lawrence Junior High is at 60%.

Current state guidelines allow schools to lift mask mandates for vaccinated individuals if they have reached an 80% or higher vaccination rate.

“We’re back to the good teaching and learning strategies of having kids together. We’re very excited about that and the students are very excited,” said Duerr.

By, Matthew Tomlinson, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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