Op-Ed: A Message from Superintendent Jon Sills on Reopening Bedford Schools

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Today, Governor Baker and Commissioner of Education Jeff Riley released their initial guidance about reopening schools this fall.  We applaud the level of thought and care that went into the development of this guidance and share its goal of the safe return of as many students as possible to in-person school settings in order to best meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.  Our thanks go as well to all of the stakeholders who have contributed to this plan, including health professionals, the Massachusetts Superintendents Association, and the teachers’ unions.

The initial guidance, which can be viewed in full at https://www.bedfordps.org/ sites/bedfordps/files/uploads/ initial_fall_guidance.pdf,  directs school districts to create three plans:

  • a full return to school for all students based upon clearly delineated health and safety guidelines,
  • a hybrid model should we not be able to accommodate all students safely, and
  • a remote learning model should the virus spike again in the fall.

The initial guidance and all subsequent guidance is/will be based upon the best medical and scientific knowledge available.

The first and preferred option will be made possible if several conditions are met:

1) If students are spaced between 3 ft and 6 ft apart,  all students are able to fit into our classrooms or into other school spaces reassigned for that purpose

2) The districts provide an effective set of safety measures and protocols, e.g.:

  • mandatory masks for grade 2 and above and highly recommended for pre-K-1
  • frequent and regular disinfecting of classrooms, surfaces, hand-washing, etc

3) The schools are at least level funded

  • additional teachers or spaces may be needed to accommodate all students

During the past week, we have been gathering the square footage and class size data to determine whether we can meet the first condition, and we will be ready to report this to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in early July.  As reported in previous Reopening Task Force updates, we have already set in motion the steps to secure the sanitation/disinfecting cleaning supplies, PPE, hand sanitizing gel dispensers, etc.

Please note that this is the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s initial guidance.  Additional guidance is expected in July.  Many questions, such as whether fall sports will be allowed, how we will support medically fragile members of our community, how remote learning will be different from the spring experience, etc. remain to be answered.  Our task force will meet as frequently as is needed in order to develop and be ready to implement these three plans.  School-based subcommittees will simultaneously address the particularities of each school-specific age range and of each building.

 


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