Turf field to be used for Oct. TM

Sep 16, 2020 by

Posted on: Wednesday, September 16, 2020

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — The best advice for any voter attending Town Meeting on Saturday, October 3 will be to dress in layers. That’s because it will be held outdoors on the Arthur J. Kenney turf field at North Reading High School, at 11 a.m., unless the weather is inclement. Given the time of year, it could be sunny and warm or it could be breezy and cool.

Face masks will be required. Plenty of hand sanitizer will be available and the new restrooms behind the concession stand will be open.

The set-up will be the same as it was for the Special Town Meeting on Saturday, August 8, with electronic check-in booths set up on both sides of the field, enabling voters to park in either the lower lot off the access road to the high school or using the driveway to the Batchelder School and the entrance to the old high school.

The check-in process can be sped up if voters have their driver’s licenses or state ID’s available to be scanned on the poll pad by the poll worker so they don’t have to type it out. However, voters may also verbally stated their name. A Plexiglas divider will separate the voter from the poll worker.

Voters should arrive at least a half hour early to check-in and there will be cones marked out at six-foot intervals to maintain social distancing. Officially, 214 voters attended the August STM, which started about a half hour late due to enable everyone to check in.

Probably the only upside to the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has reintroduced people to the world outside their doorsteps, in particular when gathering in groups. With the popularity of patio dining and yoga classes being held in meadows instead of sweaty gyms, socializing outdoors is certainly gaining in popularity.

Building off the success of the August STM and in consultation with the Select Board, Board of Health, public safety officials, and school administrators, the outdoor venue was the option Town Moderator John Murphy opted to pursue.

If the weather forecast is poor, the meeting could be postponed to the following Saturday or it could be held indoors in the gymnasium on the same day.

The town held one socially distant Annual Town Meeting indoors, in the NRHS gymnasium, on June 29. While fewer than 100 attended more people could have been accommodated. At least 150 could fit in the gym plus another 25 in the overflow room in an adjacent middle school cafeteria, which was designated for those who could not wear face masks, but no one opted to use that room that night.

In preparation for re-opening all of the town’s schools for the start of the new school year Sept. 17 with a hybrid model every school’s HVAC system was examined and updated over the summer. During this process the school administration was informed by the experts that the HVAC system installed in the new HS/MS is the “Cadillac” version of such systems, which should alleviate some concerns residents may have about visiting the building. Face masks are required to enter the building for those older than 2 unless the person has a medical condition making wearing masks inadvisable. Those who cannot wear a mask will be allowed to use the room that is set aside for them, most likely the cafeteria.

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