Letter to the Editor: Current State, Federal and Global Guidance Supports Bedford Kids Returning to In-Person Learning in January, 2021

On December 10, Jeffrey Riley, Commissioner, Massachusetts Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), issued “emergency” amendments to Student Learning Time  (https://mailchi.mp/doe.mass.edu/commissioners-weekly-update-12-21-20-board-recap-student-learning-time-updated-quarantine-guidance#updatedquar) in response to  “…a distressing increase in the mental health challenges our students are facing.”  The amendments will be effective January 19, 2021.

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Positive Feedback for Bedford School Committee and Administration

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.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive Covid Cases at JGMS and BHS ~ December 24, 2020

December 24,  2020

* One (1) new COVID-19  positive case at Bedford High School  (BHS case #23) and one (1) new case at (JGMS case # 4) has been identified.
* BHS Case #23 and JGMS case #4 were both determined to have no in-school contacts.  
* There are currently three (3) active COVID-19 positive cases in the BHS Community  and two (2) active COVID-19 positive cases in the JGMS community at this time. 

Superintendent’s Update ~ Wednesday, December 23, 2020

As we enter the December vacation I wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a restful vacation. On Monday we endured the shortest day of the year.  From here on out we will begin adding minutes of daylight each day until June.

It seems appropriate to share the last stanza of “Year’s End” by poet Richard Wilbur with you as 2020 comes to an end. To read the complete poem please visit Year’s End by Richard Wilbur

Facilities Department Presents Detailed School Space Study

A detailed study of space in Bedford’s four schoolhouses has revealed that many more students could be accommodated without compromising the six feet of physical distancing deemed required for safe learning.

What remains to be determined is whether using available space to the maximum would be educationally wise.

Taissir Alani, Director of Facilities for the town and the schools, presented details of his department’s detailed space survey to the School Committee at its meeting Tuesday.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive Covid Cases at Davis School and BHS ~ December 21, 2020

December 21,  2020

* One (1) new COVID-19 positive case at Davis School (Davis Case #8) has been identified. 
* One (1) new COVID-19 positive case at Bedford High School (BHS Case #22) has been identified.
* There are no identified Close Contacts outside the household for BHS Case #22. 
* Close Contacts of Davis Case #8 have been identified by contact tracers.  As of the issuance of this letter, families with children who are close contacts of Davis * * * Case #8 have been contacted to inform them of their child’s need to quarantine at home. Those students who are affected will be learning remotely during the quarantine period. 
* There is one (1) active COVID-19 positive case in the Davis School Community and two (2) active COVID-19 cases in the BHS community at this time.  

Superintendent’s Update ~ Friday, December 18, 2020

I hope that everyone stayed safe during our first snow day of the school year. I want to assure the students that I did not consult the website Snow Day Calculator. Instead, I relied on the expert analysis of David Manugian, our Director of Public Works, forecasts from Precision Weather Forecasting, and the National Weather Service in Norton, MA. Thank you to the Department of Public Works and the Facilities Department for getting us ready for school on Friday morning. DPH Vaccine Update
On Monday we had the opportunity to hear from Marylou Sudders the Secretary of Health and Human Services about the distribution of COVID vaccine.

Returning another Cohort of Students to In-Person Classes

School Superintendent Philip Conrad is hammering out plans to bring another cohort of students back to full in-person learning, albeit a small group.

Conrad told the School Committee on Tuesday that Bedford High School seniors whose academic struggles could jeopardize fulfilling graduation requirements likely will be accommodated. The cohort, which he said will total “one or two dozen,” will also include other BHS and John Glenn Middle School students identified as falling seriously behind academically.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive Covid Case at Lane Shool ~ December 12, 2020

December 12, 2020 

* One (1) new COVID-19 positive case at Lane School (Lane Case #5) has been identified.
* Close Contacts of Case # 5 have been identified by contact tracers. As of the issuance of this letter, families with children who are close contacts have been contacted to inform them of their child’s need to quarantine at home. Those students who are affected will be learning remotely during the quarantine
* There are 3 active COVID-19 positive cases in the Lane School Community at this time

Enrollment Projections Inform School Budget for FY22

Enrollment projections are “a critical piece of budget development,” Bedford Schools Finance Director Julie Kirrane told the School Committee on Tuesday.

And even with all of the uncertainty engendered by the response to the pandemic, she said, “we have worked through a solid projection.”

“We looked at our exits to private schools, and moves out of state, in state. We looked at the past five years of cohort movement grade to grade and created a projection we feel comfortable with,” she outlined. “It is not overly influenced by the experience of this year. We anticipate some rebounding in the earlier grades. That’s the basis of our budget planning.”

Superintendent’s Update ~ Friday, December 11, 2020

We have had a lot of information come to us this week.  We began the week with Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and ended the week with the beginning of a winter holiday.  In the middle of the week, we heard from the Commissioner of Education and the Governor.  We actually heard from Governor Baker twice this week.

Two Covid-Positive Cases at Shawsheen on December 9, 2020

I am writing to inform you that we received separate notifications today (Wednesday, December 9, 2020, at approximately 7:45 AM and at 1:30 PM) that two members of the Shawsheen community have tested positive for COVID-19.  Based on the specifics of these two cases, we are confident that they are unrelated. 

Returning Kindergarten and Moderate Learning Needs Students to Classrooms in January

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad told the School Committee Monday that dozens of students with learning needs described as moderate should be back in classrooms four days a week at the beginning of January.

By the end of the month, he continued, all kindergarten students will return to four days a week in school. And research on capacity is underway that could even result in additional returns before the end of the school year.

The progress includes prospective teacher hires from within the system, thanks to emergency certification provisions that could elevate teaching assistants.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive Covid Cases at Lane School ~ December 7, 2020

December 7, 2020
* Two (2) new COVID-19 positive cases at Lane School (Lane Cases #3 and #4) have been
* Lane Cases #3 and #4 are not related to any other positive cases at Lane that have been reported in previous notifications and do not appear to be related to in-school transmission.
* Close Contacts of Cases #3 and #4 have been identified by contact tracers. As of the issuance of this letter, families with children who are close contacts have been contacted (directly or via phone/text message) to inform them of their child’s need to quarantine at home. Those students Those students who are affected will be learning remotely during the quarantine period.
* There are 3 active COVID-19 positive cases in the Lane School Community at this time.

School Committee Briefed on BHS Interscholastic Winter Sports

“Athletics play such an important role in keeping our students engaged…. The big ‘pro’ here is that we are participating.”

That was the framework for a briefing on high school winter interscholastic sports delivered to the School Committee Tuesday by Keith Mangan, the schools’ director of athletics.

Mangan reviewed the policies and practices adopted by the 11 Dual County League schools and cited some of the modifications in individual sports designed to minimize the threat of spreading the coronavirus, as promulgated through the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

School Committee Looks Ahead to the 2021-22 School Budget

Will the Bedford schools still be adapting to Covid-19 limitations and protocols when the 2021-22 academic year opens in September?

Obviously, right now nobody knows. But the professional and elected school leadership is not taking any chances.

The budget process for the next fiscal year now underway is more complicated than any of its predecessors. Still, Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad told the School Committee on Tuesday he hopes to have a draft budget ready for members’ review before the end of the month.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive Covid Cases at JGMS and BHS ~ December 2, 2020

December 2, 2020

* One (1) new COVID-19 positive case at JGMS (JGMS Case #2) has been identified and was determined to have no in- school
* One (1) new COVID-19 positive case at BHS (BHS Case # 18 ) has been identified and was determined to have no in-school
* There is currently one (1) active COVID-19 positive case in the JGMS Community at this
* There is currently one (1) active COVID-19 positive case in the BHS Community at this time.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Two Positive Covid Cases at Davis School ~ November 29, 2020

November 29, 2020

* Two (2) new COVID-19 positive case at Davis School (Davis Cases #6 and #7) have been identified
* Davis Cases #6 and #7 are not related to any other positive cases at Davis that have been reported in previous notifications and do not appear to be related to in-school transmission
* Close Contacts of Cases #6 and #7 have been identified by contact tracers, have been instructed to quarantine, and will be learning remotely during the quarantine
* There are 4 active COVID-19 positive cases in the Davis School Community at this time.

Emotional Support Resources for Teachers and Staff through the Counseling Department

Bedford’s public school teachers, bombarded by the exigencies of the Covid-19 pandemic, are actually feeling the love.

That’s according to testimony from the four building principals at last Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Bedford School Committee.

The subject came up during a discussion about resources available to support teachers and staff through the counseling department.

Ann Guay on Bringing Remote JGMS and BHS Students Back into the Buildings

School Committee member Ann Guay offered a creative way at last Tuesday’s board meeting to get more Middle and High School students back into their buildings.

Her idea: a pilot program that would continue the remote portion of the hybrid model, but in the schoolhouses instead of at home.

“Some students are really struggling learning remotely at home, for a variety of reasons,” Guay said. “I want to propose that we think about a pilot program,” if the space is available.

The 2021 Bedford Guide ~ Behind the Scenes

How do you make 2020 into a feel-good story?  The short answer, it was easy in Bedford.  

When 2020 happened, it was pretty clear early on that this was not going to be a typical year.    The original idea was to juxtapose what was going on in the world with what was going on here in Bedford, at the local level. 

What was happening here when a pandemic was unfolding across the globe?  

As we worked on the original timeline, searching through The Bedford Citizen web page for stories relating to the pandemic, we kept coming across these stories on how so many different people were trying to make things better. 

One story, in particular, caught our eye: the story included the phrase “Bedford being Bedford” and told about the drive-up food pantry.  It was a eureka moment. We kept coming across these great stories of how all these individuals were finding a way to make our community better.  Feeding the Soul, The Drummer Boy, The Unicorn, the Mask Ministry, the Testing on the Common, etc. 

Variations on these efforts are, I’m sure, repeated in other communities as well as Bedford, but there were some truly extraordinary efforts being put forth in our community. 

We tried to convey all those stories with the pride we felt and many in our town felt as well. We hope you enjoy the Bedford Guide 2021 edition.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive Covid Case at Davis School ~ November 25, 2020

November 25, 2020

* One (1) new COVID-19 positive case at Davis School (Davis Case #5) has been identified.
* Case #5 was determined to have no in-school
* Davis Case #5 is not related to any other positive cases that have been reported in previous
* There are currently three (3) active COVID-19 positive cases in the Davis School Community at this

Late last evening, I was informed of a 5th case of COVID-19 within the Davis School Community since the start of school in mid-September. Davis Case #5 is now in isolation at home.

Investigations relative to Davis Case #5 revealed no close contacts in the Bedford Public Schools.