From my Corner : October 1, 2020

1,000 missing children in Lawrence

Before the SARS-CoV-2 started wreaking havoc in Massachusetts with COVID-19 illness, many of our students were extremely entrenched in the Lawrence Public Schools and their new curriculum to gain a fast track from the bottom scoring of the Commonwealth.

Fast forward to September 2020, and we see many effects of this virus.  Some being a large number of teacher retirements, the changing landscape of the student’s classroom (home or some other location other than school), and more screen time than ever before.

However, the main concern is that more than a thousand or so students that have yet to sign into their iPad or google chrome to be part of this year’s class and the learning process. One thousand students have yet to sign in and participate with the assigned classes in the City of Lawrence.  Other than visiting their residential address (the way it used to be in the 1970s and 80s), calls and emails are being sent non-stop trying to locate these parents and students for answers and/or assist.

One only has to imagine the type of barriers that our city children face today – lack of internet, lack of an individual to assist in classes, or even the lack of education from a parent to help sign into these electronic devices. I can only imagine that in some cases is the embarrassment that someone will see you on the other side of this screen and judge your knowledge or lack thereof.

This is not only happening in Lawrence, but all over the US, and it’s usually the younger children that are being left behind because, for the most part, the older students can maneuver their electronic devices well.

I believe that more support services are needed in the LPS, because of this pandemic. Parents and Teachers both agree that at this moment in time, the safest way is to virtually teach students.  (Please check out my other article about the high number of positive cases of COVID-19.)  We know that attendance could vastly improve once children can safely resume in-service classes, but by then how far back will they have fallen compared to more affluent communities?  How much screen time, in addition to non-class screen time, will be too much to handle and how will it affect children’s behavior and/or learning? The backtrack is real.

Additionally, the effect on working parents is that now they must pay additional dollars for someone or anyone to assist their children with online classes because they cannot provide full-time support at their home such as the Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA, or other non-headstart groups.  That’s extra money out of their pocket to pay for their child’s schooling.

In Lawrence add that many first and second-generation residents or immigrants that have fallen in hard times and some of their older children became sources of income – breadwinners with the burden of providing support. The numbers are not there to count because no one is counting them, and I hope we do reach out quicker.

Note to self, right about now (or at least last month) it was fine for some politicians to send their kids to private schools, but during the non-COVID-19 time, they were on the corners advocating to dismantle any laws associated with expanding charter schools throughout the Commonwealth.


Home assessments going up

Last June, the Lawrence City Council approved a 2.5% increase in our tax rate and now the City is getting ready to assess the value of our homes as requested by the state.

State officials have noticed that home prices have gone up dramatically and currently, single family homes are assessed at 86% of their value.  The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has requested our City Assessor Alexcy Vega to bring the assessments up between 90% and 110% considering recent sales.

But, do not fear; Mr. Vega explained that this is not going to impact the total amount we now pay for property taxes. The Residential Tax Rate is $12.43 per $1,000 of assessed value.  As the assessed value goes up, that figure of $12.43 per thousand will be lowered and the total dollars that we pay will remain the same.