The School Committee and administration have absorbed criticism and second-guessing for much of the school year from parents who want to accelerate students’ physical return to classrooms.
Some parents have advocated relaxing the six-foot physical distancing in effect this year to three feet, which has been encouraged by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
But at the most recent School Committee meeting on Dec. 22, several residents spoke in support of the status quo and expressed gratitude to professionals and volunteers.
Each School Committee agenda begins with time set aside for public comments. Individuals speak for up to three minutes; the committee historically does not respond. The technology allows spectators on the Zoom webinar format to be inserted as a meeting participant to register comments.
Mark Bailey began the parade of endorsements at last week’s meeting, telling the committee and administration, “You have earned the complete trust of our family” for “making solid, timely, collaborative decisions.” He was the first of many speakers to extend thanks to teachers and staff.
Kristen Mattson noted the negotiated agreement with the teachers’ union to maintain six feet of distancing. “I like the approach this board has taken and the collaborative way you have worked with teachers,” she said. Holly Munsie commented that the schools “have done an amazing job working with the hybrid model. It is important for teachers to know that some kids are doing really well with it.”
Christine Martin said she understands the preference to return to the classroom. She said she appreciates the committee and administration “consistently putting health and well-being of our kids and by extension our families first.” Kevin Dickert noted that there have been “some positives” experienced this year and supported sustaining six feet of distancing, which is “just one of the protocols.”
“My kids have had an abundance of blessings,” said Jennifer Cunningham. “Wonderful things are going on. We know there are plenty of kids having a hard time. I really hope we can pull together and bring these resources to more people.”
David Trant, who teaches middle school in another district, testified, “Thank you for the wonderful educators in town of Bedford. You are amazing.” Anne Caron, also an educator, commented, “I believe everyone has been part of a collaborative process and continues to explore many different options to do this safely. Do not change any safety protocols to get more students in.”
Nina Tate said Bedford schools have navigated then pandemic better than other towns, according to what she has heard from her friends. Astrid Kruse told the meeting, “All of us want the same things: education, social-emotional well-being, and safety. Thank you for your focus on education as well as safety.”
One of the earlier speakers was Erica Callahan, who has been a consistent advocate for more younger children in classrooms. Callahan spoke about the impending return of students whose learning needs are defined as moderate.
It was reported at a meeting last month that parents of about 40 percent of those students will remain with the hybrid model. However, Callahan said, her follow-up research indicates that almost all of the parents of children in kindergarten through fifth grade plan to return to in-person school for days a week.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763
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