Shared Streets Grant to Promote Public Health, Safe Mobility, and Renewed Commerce

Over the summer, the Town of Bedford was awarded $62,666 in Shared Streets grant funding from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to support projects that promote public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some existing needs and has created new ones, and these projects are intended to maximize opportunities for residents and visitors alike to take advantage of our Town resources including enhanced outdoor dining and other commercial, recreational, biking, and pedestrian facilities while supporting the recovery efforts of local businesses.

This update describes the changes that have been made possible by this grant, in collaboration with several Town Departments, committees, and business partners.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Sunday, September 27, 2020

was informed by the Bedford Board of Health that they received a laboratory testing report indicating that a school community member (i.e., student or staff) at Lane Elementary school has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The Bedford Board of Health immediately began case investigations. The first step in a school case investigation is to determine whether or not the positive case attended school during the infectious period. According to the MA Department of Public Health (MDPH) guidelines, the infectious period for COVID-19 is two days prior to becoming symptomatic or, if asymptomatic, two days prior to testing. The Board of Health determined that the positive school community member at Lane School was not present at school during their infectious period, therefore, no close contacts were identified among the school community in this situation.

Easter Eggs, Flamingos, and Turkeys ~ Oh My!

Some days it truly is the simplest of things that give us pleasure, amusement, or a smile.  Decorating an Easter Egg tree gives me all of those things and has been a tradition of mine for more than three decades – and some of my colorful eggs are clearly now a bit faded, fragile, and vintage.

This year, the eggs went on the tree earlier than usual, in mid-March, as a little something to brighten my Covid mood. With so many neighbors out walking to pass the time, l noticed more and more people stopping to snap a photo and say, “Thank you for this spot of color in what seems like a dark time.”

Easter has long passed and the eggs have remained on the tree for the cadre of neighborhood children (and their parents and others) who stop by daily to count the eggs and identify them by color.

One of our favorite daily visitors is an adorable two-year young lady who lives close by and spends as much time as her family will allow with the egg tree. Bird feeders and a birdbath were added and attract a colorful array of wings and birdsong.

Bedford’s Neighbor Brigade says “Thanks for Your Gifts of Back-to-School Masks”

Thank you to everyone who donated masks to the Bedford MA Neighbor Brigade Back to School mask drive!

We were able to collect or purchase, wash, iron, individually bag, sort by size, label, and deliver 455 masks in time for school to start. We brought 230 masks for distribution at the Bedford Food Bank, and 225 masks to the BPS Guidance Department in every color and pattern from tiny preschool to high school appropriate sizes.

Another Casualty of the Pandemic: No Special Town Meeting this Autumn

In a conversation with Select Board chair Ed Pierce on September 22, he confirmed that there is no current plan to hold a Special Town Meeting this fall.  He reiterated that a Special Town Meeting will not be scheduled unless there is an urgent need such as additional funding for the schools. 

Typically, Bedford holds its Annual Town Meeting in late March and a Special Town Meeting in October or November.

Municipal Affordable Housing Trust

Bedford renters who have been financially affected by Covid-19, including loss of employment, may now apply for emergency rental assistance grants, to maintain housing stability over the next four months.

The program was approved by the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust at a recent meeting, after consultation with the Select Board. The trust has its own resources, separate from the municipal budget. The first round of payments was capped at a total of $40,000.

Interscholastic Sports Return to Bedford High School

Fall interscholastic sports return to Bedford High School next week.

But like everything else, this year is different.

Keith Mangan, BHS director of athletics, said varsity golf, girls’ and boys’ cross-country, girls’ and boys’ soccer, and field hockey teams have been practicing and will compete against other Dual County League Small Schools Division opponents on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (Golf games are off-site so they are on other days as well.)

Mangan stressed that everyone realizes this scenario is not normal. “We are trying to get kids out of their homes, playing and competing. We are trying to meet their social-emotional needs. And we’ve got kids who are just happy to be here.” Mangan acknowledged that there are some student-athletes who have opted not to play this season.

There will be many changes in rules and practices, some of them dramatic, as directed by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. Players, coaches, and officials are wearing masks all the time except for designated breaks.

Here are some other highlights:

First Church Mask Makers Celebrate at Meet & Greet Farewell Party!

First Church of Christ Congregational’s Mask-Making Ministry team members gathered in a spacious garden for a joyful, socially-distanced “Meet and Greet Farewell Garden Party” on September 12, 2020.   The intent of the party was to celebrate and thank each guest for sharing their time, talent, and skill set, to recognize and acknowledge what our group had accomplished as a whole, and to provide closure.

On the surface, the title may seem like an oxymoron, but since our group formed in response to the pandemic and we strictly adhered to social-distancing recommendations many of us had never met in person. 

Dot’s Reading Room ~ “The Road Ahead: Charting the Coronavirus Pandemic over the next 12 Months, and Beyond” ~ September 22, 2020

If you’re interested in looking ahead to what the next months will bring during “life in the time of pandemic,” you may find this report from the editors of STAT revealing.  (STAT is a media company focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery.)

“The Road Ahead: Charting the Coronavirus Pandemic over the next 12 Months — and Beyond” By Andrew Joseph -September 22, 2020.  Here’s a quick summary:

It May Not Have Been Bedford Day, but the Town Campus was Busy on a Gorgeous September Saturday

Editor’s Note: While Bedford Day is typically celebrated on the third Saturday of September, the 2020 date was changed to September 26 to avoid conflict with Rosh Hashana which began at dusk on September 18 and ended on September 19.

It wasn’t Bedford Day, but there was a lot happening at the Town Campus on a beautiful Saturday, that in an ordinary non-pandemic year would have been a town-wide celebration.

Superintendent’s Update on Reopening the Bedford Schools ~ September 18, 2020

Thank you to everyone for making our first week of school so successful! I know that it was not perfect but we appreciate everyone’s patience, perseverance, and cooperation. We were so happy to see the students and to remember why we do what we do.

As I visited each school this week I was constantly amazed at the kindness, patience, and thoughtful way our teachers and students interacted. It was wonderful to see.

For the first day of school, I sent “May This Be A House Of Joy” by Lucille Clifton to the faculty and staff. I hope that each of our schools and every classroom will be a House of Joy for every child this school year in spite of everything that is going on in the world. May This Be a House of Joy by Lucille Clifton

I want to say a special thank you to Jonathan Manor, Pastor of the Lutheran Church for allowing our families to use the church parking lot at arrival and dismissal. This has been very helpful in reducing the traffic in and around the Davis School. Traffic and traffic flows will continue to be a major focus as we get used to our new reality. Thank you to the Bedford Department of Public Works and the Bedford Police Department for their assistance. Please keep an eye out for our walkers and riders as you drive in the area of the schools.

Short Takes from the Bedford Free Public Library ~ September, 2020

Although there is still no timeline for the reopening – either partial or full – of the Bedford Free Public Library, curbside pickup of requested books continues to provide highly-valued service to patrons.

Assistant Library Director Noreen O’Gara reported these statistics for the month of August to the Trustees at their September 8 meeting: 6,000 check-outs filled through ‘Hold’ requests; 90 curbside pickup slots/per day; and books delivered to 1,900 unique patrons received books.

Town of Bedford ~ Covid-19 Update ~ Thursday, 17 September 2020

In addition to the current case count, this update contains information on Influenza Vaccination Clinics; Mental Health and Social Services Available to Bedford Residents; Gatherings without Social Distancing – Impacting Start of School in Some Communities

Click this link to read the Town’s full update for Thursday, September 17, 2020

High Holy Days in the Time of Pandemic

The holiest days on the calendar begin Friday, September 18, at sundown. Because of the danger of Covid-19, the observance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will be unlike anything experienced by Jewish communities over more than three millennia. Whether at limited outdoor services or on computer screens, participants will not be singing together, shaking hands, embracing, or hearing the actual sounds of the shofar – the ram’s horn – an essential part of the holiday repertoire. Jewish residents of Bedford, across the broad ideological spectrum, agree that this year the holidays will be missing one important cornerstone: the literal experience of community. The Chabad Center in Lexington is making the effort with an open-walled tent in the parking lot, where outdoor services are safer, said Joe Siegel.

Bedford Statistics on Mass.Gov’s Covid Map ~ September 16, 2020

Mass.Gov updates the Commonwealth’s community-level data every Wednesday and displays it for each town on a map of the state.

On the September 9, 2020, map, Bedford appears as a “GREEN” community and remains in the same category for the week of September 16.

Town of Bedford Adds More Flu Clinics

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, this fall and winter is more important than ever. The flu season traditionally starts in September and ends in April with a peak in cases from January through March. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 55,000 hospitalizations, and 2,900 deaths, including 27 pediatric deaths, from the flu nationally.

In an effort to protect people who live and work in Bedford from getting the flu, the Bedford Board of Health has scheduled FREE flu clinics during the months of September through November at the Town Campus on Mudge Way.

Bedford Police and Rotary Sponsor Bicycle Helmet Safety Event for Student Cyclists ~ September 19, 10 am to Noon

The Bedford Police Department, in conjunction with the Bedford Rotary Club,
will host a back-to-school bicycle helmet safety event on Saturday, September 19 from 10 am until noon.

Residents are encouraged to stop by the Police Department parking lot on Mudge Way, where Bedford Rotary volunteers will distribute free, fitted helmets for child cyclists.

The free helmets, made possible through the sponsorship of the Bedford Rotary Foundation are all U.S. safety certified for Bike CPSC, and fit children ages 8-14.

Will Additional Covid Challenges Create a Shortfall in Bedford’s School Department Budget?

It’s too soon to start speculating on a shortfall in Bedford’s fiscal 2021 education budget, the schools’ finance director told the School Committee in a memorandum this week.

However, Julie Kirrane acknowledged that there is a lengthy list of potential additional expenses in response to the continuing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In her memo to the committee and superintendent of schools, Kirrane acknowledged that there are still “many unknowns about state funding or additional relief that may be available. Further, there may be some areas of savings in the fiscal 2021 budget, should a period of all-remote learning be required.”

“Until there are numbers that are more definitive for special education circuit-breaker, state impact aid, and a potential next CARES Act, an accurate projection of budgetary needs is not possible at this time,” she wrote.

Among the “currently identified school needs,” Kirrane listed teaching assistants comprising up to 20 full-time equivalent positions; up to 170 air purifiers; and long-term substitutes for staff eligible to take unpaid leaves of absence.

Other unfunded possibilities listed were strengthening some additional remote learning platform needs, consultation for special education, and professional development needs.

Bedford Charter Service: Covid School Bus Protocol Means Reserved Seats

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.”