Message from Commissioner Riley
Late this morning DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley announced that he will ask the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to grant him the authority to mandate masks for all public K-12 students, educators, and staff through October 1 to ensure schools fully reopen safely and to provide time for more students and educators to get vaccinated. The mandate would include exceptions for students who cannot wear a mask due to medical conditions or behavioral needs. After October 1, the commissioner’s policy would allow middle and high schools to lift the mask mandate for vaccinated students and staff only if the school meets a certain vaccination rate – at least 80 percent of students and staff in a school building are vaccinated. Unvaccinated students and staff would still be required to wear masks. The DESE Board will meet at 10:00am on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 to consider his request. Read the complete document at DESE Press Release 8/20/2021
School Committee Meeting Recap
On Wednesday night (8/18/21) the school committee met to consider COVID-19 protocols for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts with the committee and me. After hearing from community members I recommended to the committee that we continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to become vaccinated, continue to maximize airflow through our HVAC system, continue to use MERV-13 filters in our HVAC system, utilize HEPA filtration machines in all occupied spaces, stock and encourage the use of hand sanitizing stations, participate in DESE’s pooled testing program which will include weekly safety check testing, rapid diagnostic testing, and a “test and stay” testing protocol for close contacts, continue to stock and make available personal protective equipment (PPE) to all, and begin the year with a mask mandate for all students and staff. These protocols, if approved, would allow us to prioritize the health and safety of everyone in our school buildings. The school committee will vote on these recommendations on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 at their next meeting.
At the meeting many speakers referenced to the following documents:
AAP’s guidance from 7/19/2021
CDC guidance from 7/27/2021
MA DESE/DPH guidance from 7/30/2021
DESE/DPH Protocols for Responding to COVID-19 Scenarios SY21-22 from 8/13/2021
METCO and Hanscom visits
This week I had the opportunity to visit two important leaders. I visited with Colonel Katrina Stephens on Hanscom Airforce Base in her office. Colonel Stephens is Commander of the 66th Air Base Group based at Hanscom Air Force Base. At the meeting Colonel Stephens and I were joined by our Military Educational Liaison Laurel Wironen. Our conversation focused on how we could continue to strengthen our relationships to assist the students of our military families. After the meeting Laurel was able to give me a tour of the base so that I could see the base for myself. It was a wonderful opportunity to visit the neighborhoods of our students.
I also had the opportunity to meet with METCO President and CEO Milly Arbaje-Thomas. Milly oversees the operations of METCO HQ and I was able to meet with her in Nubian Square in Boston to see the operation in action. Joining me for the meeting was our Bedford METCO Director Akil Mondesir. At our meeting we discussed items related to assisting our Bedford METCO families transition from Boston to Bedford and helping them maximize their educational experiences. Prior to the meeting Akil and I were able to drive the middle school/high school bus route. It was a wonderful opportunity to visit the neighborhoods of our students. Thank you to Bedford Charter’s Butch O’Leary for driving us throughout the city. Butch has been driving our Bedford METCO students to Bedford for the past seventeen (17) years! Thank you Butch!
Survey for METCO families
METCO HQ has launched its second summer survey for parents of METCO students. The questions range from children’s experience in school to the value of HQ’s programs to areas of improvement in the application process. We encourage all of our Bedford METCO families to take a few minutes to share their perspective anonymously with METCO HQ. Please access the survey at https://forms.gle/FZrgEhYizZhc1HFg7
Pool Testing/ COVID Safety Checks
We have engaged with CIC Health and DESE so that we can provide weekly safety check testing, rapid diagnostic testing, and “test and stay” testing for close contacts. Our Lead Nurse Tracy Fernald and I have been attending meetings and will continue to plan for testing in the fall. More meetings are planned and we will be sure to follow the progress as we prepare to take advantage of DESE’s new routine COVID safety check protocols. DESE has engaged CIC Health as its state-wide testing provider. More information will follow on the COVID Safety Check protocols. For more information please review the COVID Safety Check Information 8 20 2021 document prepared by Nurse Leader Tracy Fernald.
First days of school
As we prepare for the first days of school please keep the following dates in mind:
Monday, August 30, 2021 Teachers Workshop Day
Tuesday, August 31, 2021Teachers Workshop Day
Wednesday, September 1, 2021 First Day of School for all students
Thursday, September 2, 2021 Second Day of School for all students
Friday, September 3, 2021 No School for ALL
Our fall athletic season begins today, Friday, August 20, 2021 for the football team. All other sports will begin on Monday, August 23, 2021. Some athletes have already begun their pre-season training and may be training on roadways so please be cautious as you drive through town.
As always, thank you for your patience, your participation, and your continued commitment to our schools,