School Committee ~ October 14, 2020: Covid Cases, Transportation, MCAS Returns

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad told the School Committee at its meeting Tuesday that the schools’ hybrid learning model is doing well.

Administrators are continually fixing inconsistencies and other spot problems that have arisen since the first day of school Spt. 16, he said. Conrad added that despite occasional positive Covid-19 cases in the schools, Bedford’s condition is good when compared to nearby districts.

Conrad was asked to clarify the process Bedford will undergo if the town is moved to “red” status on the Department of Public Health’s weekly report, monitoring Covid-19 cases by a municipality. Cities and towns that are red reflect at least nine active cases per 100,000 residents.

The superintendent explained that if municipalities are rated red by DPH for three consecutive weeks, schools are mandated to close. Wednesday Bedford was marked “green,” a milder risk category.

This discussion initiated more conversation from school committee members about contingency plans if the district needs to pivot between models. Conrad assured the committee that the correct planning is being carried out.

Although previously there were concerns about an overflow of cars dropping off and picking up students, traffic has not been an issue, he reported.

School transportation has been efficient and worked without large overflow onto main roads, the superintendent said, adding an appreciation for the work of the Bedford Police Department and the Department of Public Works in ensuring transportation success.

While most of Conrad’s updates were met with relief by the School Committee, the announcement that the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams will be mandatory for the 2020-2021 school year engendered an adverse reaction.

This announcement was anticipated, as the MCAS had not yet been waived for the 2020-2021 school year. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notified districts in early October that neither that agency nor the Legislature took up waiving MCAS requirements.

Both waivers would be necessary for MCAS to be not required for the 2020-2021 school year.

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