The fleet of school buses at Bedford Charter Service is ready to hit the road after six months of literal idling.
“Our drivers basically lost months of work, and for the most part we didn’t lose any [of them],” said Orna Miles, general manager. “We are extremely lucky.”
Many of the protocols in response to the Covid-19 virus have been handed down from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Miles said, while others were developed by the bus company in concert with the schools’ business office. Pre-school planning is “always a lot of work, but especially this year, in a compressed amount of time.”
Start spreading the news: From September through December, every week is bike-to-school week. Lane School families seeking an alternative to car dropoff and the bus are pooling their resources and using Bedford’s award-winning Safe Routes to Schools model to organize bike-to-school rides this fall.
A growing list of neighborhood rides is here, and people can sign up here for a slot to lead or support a chaperoned morning ride to Lane School on the Narrow Gauge trail, starting from The Great Road.
As has been my practice since early July, I am writing to you on a Friday, while this has become a normal occurrence, the fact that it is happening today on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks on our country is not lost on any of us. Nineteen years ago we watched in horror as our nation was attacked. The impact of these attacks was felt around the world but had an additional impact on us here in the Boston area since the planes used for these attacks departed from our very own Logan International Airport. I hope that you will join me in observing a moment of silence and reflection on this somber day.
Next week we will welcome students into our schools. We are all excited to see the students and to get down to the business of supporting our students in their academic endeavors and with their social and emotional needs. This is an important step towards their future and we are excited to be a part of it.
Summer was sort of a footnote for the 16 counselors who work in the Bedford Public Schools.
And now that reopening is less than a week away, they are prepared to execute a three-tiered all-encompassing plan, said Alicia J. Linsey, director of counseling for pre-kindergarten through high school.
Bedford schools will open for the new academic year on Wednesday, September 16, a week from today, and hundreds of households throughout the town are confronting unprecedented scheduling and safety variables — thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Yet a sampling of residents indicates that there’s a spirit of resilience and even optimism as the challenges are addressed
Following the first reading of the policy at the Aug. 31 meeting, Superintendent Philip Conrad presented the policy, which establishes compliance with the state requirement for comprehensive mask wear in schools.
Tuesday’s reading included an additional policy by School Committee member Ann Guay that prohibits the sharing or trading of masks among students.
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.
This week has seen us welcome faculty and staff back to school (virtually and in person). Faculty and staff are preparing for the return of our students on the 16th. The staff is engaged in a wide variety of professional development activities that will prepare us for the return to school.
It was exciting to be able to speak to the entire staff on Monday morning. I was joined at the virtual podium by Bedford Education Association President James Sunderland and Bedford School Committee Chairman Dan Brosgol. Wonderfully and without kibitzing each of us spoke about togetherness, cooperation, and collaboration. These have been fundamental to our success this summer and I am excited that we are beginning the year with a unified voice.
Bedford Public Schools Food Services offers healthy meals on school days. Free and reduced meal applications are available to all families.
For a Free and Reduced Meal Application please call 781-275-9129, write to Bedford School Lunch Program 97 McMahon Rd Bedford, MA 01730, download from the district website at https://www.bedfordps.org/ or pick up in the main office at any school.
“I’ve always believed that educating others should be an enabling act of love and liberation, not didacticism and indoctrination.”
Jon Sills, who formally departed from the Bedford Public Schools on August 30, shared that philosophy in a letter to teachers, staff members, and the School Committee. He also told them, “The relationships that you have built, and continue to build, will, for many of our students, be remembered throughout their lives.”
Sills, 69, succeeded Thomas Duggan as Bedford High School principal in 2001. He followed Dr. Maureen Lacroix as superintendent in the summer of 2012 and actually retired on June 30, continuing another two months as associate superintendent to assist in the transition with his successor, Philip Conrad. He called Conrad “an educational leader who truly cares about teachers, who listens, and who places kids at the forefront of every decision.”
Jon Sills’s pre-Bedford resume spans almost 30 years of teaching and administration, much of it at Brookline High School near his home. Indeed, he was a finalist for the position of Brookline superintendent of schools four years ago.
“When I came to Bedford, I thought I would stay for three or four years. My heart was in more urban education,” Sills reflected during a lengthy interview. “But some of the things that attracted me to the Bedford Public Schools – a unique level of diversity, given it’s a small suburban community, and the values that were embedded in the strategic planning — really made it attractive. I came to fall in love with the community.”
The School Committee Monday approved all four hybrid learning models proposed for each of the four schools, as presented virtually by each building principal.
Assistant Superintendent Tricia Clifford introduced and explained the process to develop building-specific hybrid plans.
Clifford said all four schools plan to begin on September 16 in an all-remote format. Students from Cohort A will attend school on September 17 for a half-day and those in Cohort B will attend in-person on September 18, also for a half-day.
I wanted to clarify my statement about the learning pods that I discussed in my Friday letter. We had been told that some home learning pods were soliciting Bedford Public School teachers to teach in their pods rather than the children enrolled in our schools.
Being upset about that, it may have seemed that I was generalizing about parents whose honest efforts to meet the needs of their own children were inappropriate. I apologize for using the term, “privilege pod,” which, while that term is being used in public conversations about this phenomenon it clearly conveys a judgmentalness that is divisive and was not my intention.
As the superintendent I care about the education of all of our children, including those whose parents find alternative means of supplementing their education and those who do not have the means to do so. But our purview is what we can provide in the district, not what some parents choose to do at home. We will strive to do our best to provide the most robust and effective hybrid and remote education possible.
From mid-July to mid-August, members of the community came together via Zoom meetings to discuss the new book, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
This young adult remix of Dr. Kendi’s “Stamped From the Beginning” looks at the history of racism in the United States, from its earliest forms to the present day. From the publisher, “this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.”
Thank you for your continued patience as we work to reopen school.
I wanted to let you know that our Cooperative Teams have completed their work on our reopening plan and that plan will be made public today. The Cooperative Teams did an incredible job working out the myriad of interconnected details with the health and safety of all students, faculty, and staff always front and center in their minds.
We believe that the plans provide for the academic engagement of students while supporting students’ social and emotional well- being, maintaining equity as a core belief, creating welcoming learning environments, and enabling students and teachers to build strong relationships.
The plan which is linked on the Bedford Public Schools School Reopening web page at Reopening Plans Information will be presented to the school committee at their next meeting on Monday, August 31, 2020.
Hybrid/Remote Final Decision
In order to finalize our student and teacher schedules we are asking that any parent who wants to change their child’s current model to please contact your school’s registrar by the end of the day on Monday, August 31, 2020. If your child will remain in their current model, there is no action required of you at this time.
This is the 47th year that the Bedford Public Schools have participated in the Metco program. But it’s the first that the schools will be welcoming a Boston contingent during a global pandemic.
The program coordinator, Akil Mondesir, is confident that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure that the Boston students can keep on top of remote learning, and can travel to and from Bedford safely.
“Working side by side with the new superintendent, with Jon Sills, the assistant superintendent the finance director, all of the principals, I truly believe that during this crisis they wanted to be sure the families from Boston were never left out, that they always felt connected and truly are part of the Bedford community,” Mondesir declared.
The state-mandated postponement of football and competitive cheer from the fall to a new “floating season” starting in late February is a big disappointment to Bedford High School coaches and student-athletes.
But their attitude is upbeat as they focus on a new destination.
ByPauline Leone, Director St. Paul's Weekday Nursery School |
While cleaning out my office I found a box marked “History photos” with information about Jean McCaffrey, the founder of St. Paul’s Weekday Nursery School, and her introduction to the Nursery School Cookbook, published in 1999.
Thank you for your continued patience as we work to reopen school. I wanted to let you know that our Cooperative Teams are working on detailed plans for each school to reopen safely under the hybrid model we proposed and was accepted at the August 5, 2020, Bedford School Committee meeting. The Cooperative Teams are doing an incredible job working out all of the details with the health and safety of all students, faculty, and staff in mind, provides academic engagement for all, supports students’ social and emotional well-being, maintains equity as a core belief, creates welcoming learning environments, and enables students and teachers to build strong relationships.
Middlesex Community College in Bedford and Lowell has some advantages as it heads into the home stretch toward a September 9 virtual opening.
For one thing, college President James Mabry, Middlesex committed last May to a fall semester of remote teaching and learning. So the faculty has had all summer to prepare.
“We did a lot of training and workshops for faculty. We spent the summer preparing for really good online programming,” Dr. Mabry said. “The faculty and the staff have been immensely creative and worked really hard throughout the summer to make sure students are able to continue their education.”
There will be no football or competitive cheering at Bedford High School this fall.
But if the threat of the coronavirus mitigates, they could take place during a new “floating season” from February 22 to April 25, part of a realignment designed to safeguard participants and accommodate all activities as much as possible.
“Sports this fall definitely will look different than they have in the past.”
That was the reaction of Bedford High School Director of Athletics Keith Mangan after digesting the safety and reopening standards for youth sports activities, issued late last week by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).
Now that Bedford students are expected to return to the town’s four schoolhouses next month, members of the Facilities Department are working to ensure that the environment is safe.
“There was some frustration is not knowing what to do, but everything is part of the job. You respond to emergencies,” said Facilities Director Taissir Alani. “The schools and the town have been totally supportive.” He pointed out that his specialists and custodians have been working all summer – the department maintains all municipal buildings.
In preparing the schools, he said, “We developed our own plan.” There were no specific guidelines, only general principles like, “Provide proper ventilation.”
Over the past two weeks, even before the decision to adopt the hybrid reopening model, “We have been organizing the classrooms to accommodate from 12 to 14 kids at a time,” Alani said. The rooms maintain at least six feet of distancing, consistent with the anticipated educational cohorts.
“The models we had were two classrooms in every building, so we could see what it looked like,” Alani continued. “We have removed extra furniture into storage trailers, and we are now in compliance with building and fire codes.” Some furniture was moved out of cafeterias as well.
ByLily Nemirovsky and Liz Henning on behalf of the Bedford Action Team |
As the Black Lives Matter movement has garnered a lot of attention the past few weeks, many of us, BHS students and recent alumni, have become much more aware of the systemic racism that exists in this country, in this state, and even in this town.
We’ve learned a lot, and one resource relating to the movement that we recently came across was a campaign called Diversify Your Narrative (https://www.diversifyournarrative.com/). Its aim is to encourage school boards to adopt more diverse curriculums, especially regarding works of literature, to combat racism by raising awareness of and studying Black, Indigenous, and People of Color’s (BIPOC) history and experiences.