Brookline School Committee discusses logistics of annual crew trip and return to in-person learning



The Brookline School Committee convened virtually on Thursday, April 29 to discuss the increase of in-person learning and logistics of the high school crew team’s annual trip to Saratoga Springs, New York

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened virtually via Zoom to discuss the increase in the in-person learning of the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) on Apr. 29 at 6 p.m.

BSC Co-Chair Suzanne Federspiel started off the meeting with a discussion about the high school’s crew field-trip to the Northeast Regionals in Saratoga Springs, New York, which prompted more in-depth discussion.

Athletic Director Pete Rittenburg said before the COVID-19 pandemic, the team’s annual crew trip was successful in attendance and student excitement.

“We’ve got some seniors now who haven’t rowed since their sophomore year. It’s a regional event, and it typically leads on to Nationals, which we’ve often attended,” Rittenburg said. “For our seniors, it would be nice to finish off with a nice experience, since it is helpful for the college process: it gets them on watch lists.”

Interim Superintendent Dr. James Marini said he is hesitant to support the vote, especially considering that the vote was binding to include other field trips and activities.

“There’s a real desire to have students participate in such a terrific activity. I’m sure the crew team is anxious to do this, but it’s very difficult. There are many questions that are not answered and the guidance from the state about gathering and how close you can be is contrary to what’s happening in this trip,” Marini said. “I would be very reluctant to support this [vote], particularly without any information.”

Federspiel said the trip feels very out of place with the current safety policy.

“It is way outside the boundaries of our current policy. I know the race itself is outside, so I’m not as worried about that. It’s more about the eating, sleeping and the transportation. It doesn’t feel consistent with what we’ve been told so far,” Federspiel said.

BSC member Susan Wolf Ditkoff said that it is important to communicate with the students and let them know the logistics of the factors of unsafety.

“If there were a way to make this work, we would be willing to consider that. But given there are just a number of pieces of this that are unsafe or contrary to advice, I do think it’s important to communicate that well to the students,” Wolf Ditkoff said.

The BSC opted to postpone the vote until May 11.

The BSC delivered a thank you and farewell towards member Barbara Scotto, who was first elected to serve on the BSC in 2009.

Scotto said that adjusting to leaving the committee will not be easy, especially with being a part of the PSB community for so long.

Later in the meeting, Marini said the transition from hybrid learning into in-person learning throughout the PSB K-8 schools and the high school has provided relief to students and faculty.

“I visited schools before vacation and I visited schools during this week, and it’s consistent in every single school; a positive feeling moving forward. In fact, there is an ongoing sense of joy that students are in schools from the secretaries,” Marini said. “There is a continuing sense of almost relief that we’re back and that we’re in-person.”

Marini said the feeling of returning to normalcy creates a sense of happiness in the PSB schools.

“We are monitoring very closely if there’s a positive case and what the close contacts would be. It feels normal. There’s a sense of happiness in the school that there is a sense of staying consistent with the safety protocols,” Marini said.

This article was updated to include a correction on 5/4/2021.