Published in the November 5, 2020 edition.


WAKEFIELD — COVID-19 and the resulting loss of 61 days of in-person instruction last spring set back the progress of all students in the Wakefield Public Schools, but the greatest impact was on special education students, according to Director of Special Education Lyn O’Neil.

O’Neil was at last week’s School Committee to provide an update on Special Education Services in the district.

She talked about current COVID-19-related staff vacancies due to leaves of absence, resignations and retirements. Those unfilled positions include a speech language assistant and paraprofessionals at the Doyle Early Childhood Center, as well as a second-grade special education teacher, a school psychologist and a paraprofessional at the Dolbeare School.

At the Woodville, there are special education paraprofessional vacancies, and at the Walton School there is a part-time Speech Language Pathologist vacancy. At the Greenwood School there is a full-time paraprofessional position vacant.

O’Neil told the School Committee that many of these special education positions remain unfilled because of a lack of skilled, certified applicants. This has resulted in the need to use higher cost outside service providers or agencies to meet service delivery needs.

She talked about guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) regarding services to remedy student loss of progress due to the lack of in-person instruction as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.

O’Neil said that Special Education student evaluations were conducted over the summer and continued into the current school year. Initial evaluation requests from parents have been on the rise over the last few weeks, she said. Currently, there is a limited ability to conduct remote assessments, she explained, due to lack of norms, validity, etc.

O’Neil discussed how remote/virtual special education services are being provided in the current school year. She also talked about DESE guidance for the provision of in-person special education services for students with complex and significant needs.

School Committee Chair Aimee Purcell thanked O’Neil and her staff for identifying and acknowledging the existing issues, such as staffing vacancies. She said that she worried about the ability of the most vulnerable students to get the services that they need, calling the present situation “extremely troubling.”

O’Neil said that she and her staff have the same worries and concerns for special education students who are “doubly affected” by the pandemic-related changes. She said that she and her staff are working hard to balance the learning and social-emotional needs of these students.

In response to a question from School Committee member Mike Boudreau, School Superintendent Doug Lyons said that he expected that monies would be forthcoming through the federal CARES Act to help with providing special education students with the services that they need. He also anticipated needing to access the Special Education Stabilization Fund in the spring. That fund was established by Town Meeting vote several years ago to help with unanticipated special education needs.


Director of Facilities Bob Schiaroli provided the School Committee with an update on the the HVAC systems at all of the schools. All systems are functioning a full capacity, he said. An outside firm had been brought in to evaluate the system that controls the heating at the high school. A report on their findings was expected by the end of last week.

Schiaroli said that the Greenwood roof is now complete, with just a few punch list items remaining before the town signs off of the project.


The School Committee voted to accept a donation of $4,300 from WHS Girls Soccer to pay stipends for the Assistant Coaches for the 2020 fall season.

The School Committee also voted to accept a donation of $2,500 from the Walton School PTO for the Walton school teachers to purchase supplies for the classroom.