The Bedford Public Schools administration and the Bedford Education Association have executed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), paving the way for a smooth reopening of schools on September 16. The MOA has been unanimously confirmed by the School Committee.
Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad said that the MOA provides specifications and expectations in eight areas: personnel, workload, safety protections and precautions, professional development and preparation time, expectations of time in the building, curriculum and technology, the hybrid model, and full district online model. He noted that there are provisions in each area designed to protect educators and to protect the district.
The agreement also details the district’s procedures if there is a transition from hybrid to a district-wide virtual model.
The superintendent announced the ratification at last week’s School Committee meeting. Several members commented that the deal starkly contrasts the lengthy debate and vitriol between teacher unions and administrations across the commonwealth and nation.
School Committee Chair Dan Brosgol asked Conrad about his proudest accomplishment through the district and BEA discussions. Conrad said he was particularly proud of the district and BEA’s relationship while collaborating.
School Committee Secretary Brad Morrison asked Conrad what the BEA will do if they believe the district is not holding up its end of the deal. Conrad said that due to the relationship he has built with BEA President Jim Sunderland, he would expect to receive a text message from the union head. They could then work together to solve the problem immediately.
The superintendent spoke on various issues that the district sought to solve, including working to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. He also highlighted a unique partnership with the town to help provide childcare for teachers through Kids’ Club for teachers whose kids are not in school. Kids’ Club is the Recreation Department’s school-age child-care program; Brosgol is the director.
Conrad also discussed various initiatives the district arranged with the BEA that helped define the eight areas of agreement. For personnel and workload, Conrad spoke of the commitment to hire teaching assistants and substitutes. The need for increased personnel is essential since if a teacher is absent, it is not expected that another teacher will cover that shift, he explained.
While some teachers have chosen to teach virtually under the hybrid model, the additional teaching assistants will ensure that there is an adult in the classroom at all times, he said.
While reviewing safety protections and precautions, Conrad praised Taissir Alani, the town’s director of facilities, to explain the schools’ ventilation systems during conversations with the district leadership and the BEA. Conrad also highlighted Alani’s efforts to improve the air quality in the schools.
The superintendent noted that everyone entering the school buildings will be expected to wear a mask and that no visitors will be permitted for the foreseeable future.
Conrad pointed out that teachers may choose whether to meet with their classes from the building on Wednesdays when all classes are held virtually. This decision was made to accommodate teachers’ concerns with the amount of time that they are expected to spend in the building.
It was intended by both the BEA and the district that all students had access to technology. However, Conrad noted that many of these technology orders are on backorder due to increased nationwide demand. In addition, the schools have purchased technology to provide teaching assistants and other educators with the same equipment as teachers.
Conrad said that in case circumstances necessitate moving to a total virtual model, teachers could still teach from their classroom unless the Health Department rules it unsafe.
Morrison voiced his concern over how teachers will simultaneously educate students in a virtual and in-person setting. Assistant Superintendent Tricia Clifford explained that teachers would only be expected to do one or the other.
More can be read about individual schools’ reopening plans here.