But the biggest difference is that there will not be hybrid or fully remote learning models—for now.
Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad presented details about reopening to the School Committee at its virtual meeting on Tuesday.
He said the return to solely in-person instruction will enhance the academic experience and “our classrooms will go back to being student-centered.”
The superintendent said a face-mask requirement for students and staff is expected from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) this week. The state Board of Education authorized the step at a meeting Tuesday morning. Conrad noted that there is no mask requirement outside.
Asked by committee member Dan Brosgol about the budget implications of the new academic year, Conrad replied, “I feel like we are doing well in terms of hiring and our Covid contingencies. I feel confident we will be able to prioritize health and safety and at the same time move forward with our educational agenda.”
He added that the agenda emphasizes “rebuilding teachers’ relations with students, and students’ [relationships] with one another, and from there focus on their academic needs. I’m excited that we will be able to move forward with some more of our academic priorities.”
Other components of the reopening plan include:
- Lunch will be outside, including in tents, for the foreseeable future, with building principals investigating other common spaces that can ensure safety indoors.
- “Co-mingling” between sections and grades will be discouraged in all buildings because that could disrupt contact tracing.
- Bedford has signed up to be part of the DESE testing protocols, including pool-testing. Conrad pointed out that under state policy, the tests have to be voluntary.
Conrad said that there is no longer a three-foot distancing requirement.
Committee member Dr. Brad Morrison asked Conrad to detail plans “when and if there is a need for remote education.” He explained, “I’d like some reassurance that if we had to close the schools we would have a plan in place.”
He added that if the state agency allows remote education for students at home in quarantine, “we are going to be able to accommodate that. We want to encourage the right behavior for people who have mild symptoms.”
Conrad said the building principals “are already working on what to do and how to do it” if a remote option is needed. “We have to work with teachers to see what they’re prepared to do,” he stressed. “We want to make sure we are not doing Zoom in the room, but are going to balance that by taking care of our students. How are we going to do both of those things? That’s what we are working on right now.” He said he hopes to have more details at the next School Committee meeting.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com, or 781-983-1763