School Committee Hears Teacher Feedback

Jan. 19, 2021—The exigencies of being a Bedford teacher during the Covid-19 pandemic are taking their toll.

Principals of Bedford four schools told the School Committee last week that most teachers are hurting. But they are also models of “flexibility, adaptability, resiliency.”

“People are tired and frustrated – and we don’t blame them,” said John Glenn Middle School Principal Kevin Tracy. But he emphasized, “You would not be able to tell that if you were in our schools.” He added that appreciation for town support was clear from staff feedback.

Bedford High School Heather Galante said the feedback was acquired through several channels: surveys at the end of last school year and at the beginning of this one, school council meetings, faculty, and departmental meetings, and, less formally, emails, phone conversations, and principals’ walks through their buildings.

She said general themes emerged from the scores of comments: health and safety, self-care and wellness, expectations and workload, and teaching and learning.

The goal of the summary, Galante said, is to provide a perspective from pre-kindergarten through high school, based on feedback received this year.

Assisted Living Overlay District Proposed

The Planning Board on Jan. 12 reviewed and revised the proposed zoning bylaw amendment for assisted living facilities, in response to a proposal by LCB Senior Living on South Road near Evergreen Avenue.

The suggestions from this meeting will be used to create a new draft that will be presented and discussed in a public hearing at the board’s next meeting on Jan. 26.

Schools to Survey Families Regarding Full, In-Person Classes for the Current Academic Year

Bedford school principals soon will survey families to determine how many would send their children back to full in-person classes this academic year if there was that opportunity.

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad told the School Committee on Jan. 12 that the results will help determine if “we can fill the capacity we have.” He emphasized that safety will not be compromised, and “we really want to partner with the parents and the teachers.”

Have You Checked Your Mailbox?

By today—Jan. 22—an important legal document should have landed in your mailbox and you have 10 days to complete it and return it to the Town Clerk.

Bedford’s Annual Street Listing/Census 2021 is a brief, four-question form but it carries a lot of weight. It is a state requirement that you complete the form; compliance provides proof of residence, protection of voting rights, veteran’s bonus, housing for the elderly, and related benefits.

And dog-owners, don’t forget that if you have acquired a Hunter or a Peaches or a Dodge in the past year, the Town also needs to know that bit of information.

School Nursing in the Time of Pandemic ~ Tracy Fernald, Nurse Leader for the Bedford Schools

Tracy Fernald misses the kids. And that’s saying something—she is the nurse at John Glenn  Middle School, where hybrid learning has continued since September, tiptoeing around the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It couldn’t be more different than it was prior,” Fernald explained. “We don’t have the typical revolving door of students coming in and out of the nurse’s office. Now there are a lot of phone calls, emails, case management meetings. They are such a big part of our day.”

Rising COVID-19 Case Counts in Bedford

Jan. 22, 2021—As the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the nation as a whole are in the midst of a surge in COVID- 19 cases, the Bedford Health Department reminds Bedford residents that the surge is happening here in town too.

Travel over Thanksgiving and the December holidays, socializing at gatherings, and mixing of households during celebrations are all situations believed to have contributed to the increase in positive cases. Additionally, based on contact tracing data, we know many of our cases are attributable to household contact – the virus is spread within the home when one infected (likely asymptomatic) family member has close contact with uninfected household members during their infectious period.

Because the virus is predominantly spread via droplet and aerosol transmission, mask-wearing is an important protective measure in preventing virus transmission. We bring this to your attention not to shame anyone or point fingers, but human nature is indeed a contributing factor to the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

With vaccine distribution underway in the pursuit of herd immunity, now is not the time to let down our guard. All safety protocols necessary to slow the spread have to continue to be followed: wear a mask, maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet, wash your hands frequently, sanitize common touch surfaces regularly, increase ventilation in indoor spaces, take advantage of testing opportunities, limit gatherings and encounters with people outside your immediate household and get vaccinated as soon as you can!

As of the writing of this article, the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) has reported one hundred sixty-six (166) Confirmed and Probable COVID-19 cases in Bedford since January 1st, which is about double the number of new cases from the previous 20 day time period. Thirty-five (35) cases have been reported within the Bedford Public School (BPS) Community since January 1s, a number almost equal to all the positive cases realized from the beginning of school through December 31, 2020. Only one of the BPS cases to date was suspected to result from in-school transmission.

With our current Incidence Rate of over 10/100,000 but a positivity rate under 5%, Bedford remains in the yellow “lower risk” category. If Bedford’s positivity rate reaches 5%, that will elevate us to the red or “higher risk” category. We were assigned that category for one week several months ago before the risk metrics were changed by the MA DPH. The red category releases additional outreach resources to the town from the state as well as triggers an elevated surveillance alert to the Bedford Public Schools (BPS), in that it would be one of many factors reviewed in the event schools had to close due to high case counts or evidence of widespread in-school transmission

FAQ COVID-19 Vaccine for Residents

With the release of vaccine for COVID-19 facing workers over the past few weeks, many are wondering when they may be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Bedford Health Department has prepared the following FAQ’s to address some of our residents’ questions.

Will the Town of Bedford have COVID-19 vaccination clinics?

Yes. Vaccination clinic planning is currently in its final stages, and clinics are expected to begin in the coming weeks. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) will be releasing the vaccine to the Health Department for distribution to the community. The Health Department currently does not have vaccine.

Who can get the vaccine?

The state of Massachusetts through the MA DPH has coordinated a timeline for vaccine eligibility. Right now, the vaccine is only available to those listed in Phase One of the vaccine distribution plan from the Department of Public Health. To view currently eligible groups for vaccination, please navigate to: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/when-can-i-get-the-covid-19-vaccine

When can I get my vaccine?

The Health Department is required to follow Massachusetts state guidance for vaccine distribution and will offer the vaccine at our town sponsored clinics when eligible to begin Phase Two. Currently, Phase Two is expected to begin in February for the first priority group of high-risk individuals with 2+ comorbidities (high risk for COVID-19 complications), individuals 75+, etc. Please see the vaccine distribution timeline plan displayed by clicking the link above.

Life Sciences and the Move to the Suburbs ~ Part II ~ Ultragenyx Builds in Bedford

Bedford local government’s welcoming approach was a big part of the reason why Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical decided to locate a major operation in the town.

Gil Stevens, senior director of capital projects for the 10-year-old California-based firm, told a virtual meeting sponsored by the Middlesex 3 collaborative that “the responsiveness has been absolutely stellar.” Stevens was a guest panelist on a virtual program entitled “Life Sciences and the Move to the Suburbs.”

“Not all communities are like that. We had a number of towns that just not did even respond,” Stevens continued. “The folks in Bedford were just phenomenal — Sarah (Town Manager Sarah Stanton) and Alyssa (Economic Development Director Alyssa Sandoval) coming out to discuss the town’s capabilities.”

Be Ready for Winter ~ Tips from Bedford’s Community Emergency Response Team

The Bedford CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) has coordinated with Town Public Safety officials in preparing some tips for you to ensure that you ARE ready. The Town of Bedford has many resources to help residents deal with emergencies of various types. In most cases, however, YOU, the resident, are the first line of defense against “unplanned events”. One of the best things you can do is EXPECT the UNEXPECTED and prepare for situations that may arise. Planning ahead and having some essential supplies on hand can help you to “weather the storm”, whatever form it may take.

School Committee Mulls “Recovery” Budget for In-Classroom Learning

School Committee members explored in detail at their meeting on Jan. 12 the educational implications of returning to school in the fall with smaller class sizes, particularly at Davis and Lane Schools.

One of the fiscal 2022 budget options the committee is considering incorporates additional personnel to allow for expanding the number of classrooms.

The so-called “recovery” budget option assumes that almost all students will be back in school, and the primary reason for the additional classrooms is to sustain physical distancing. The assumption is that the pandemic, while perhaps receding, will still be a consideration.

Superintendent’s Update ~ New Positive Covid Cases: 1 at BHS and 1 at Davis School ~ January 21, 2021

January 21, 2021

* One (1) new COVID-19 positive case at Bedford High School (BHS case #39), no close contacts.
* There are currently three (3) active COVID-19 positive cases in the BHS community.
* This case does not appear to be connected or related to previous cases identified in school.

Last night I was informed that there has been one (1) new case of COVID-19 reported within the Bedford High School (BHS) Community.   This case is in isolation at home.  BHS case #39 was not present in school during their infectious period and investigations revealed that no close contacts were identified within the school community.

January 21, 2021,  later in the day

* One (1) new COVID-19 positive case at Davis School (DS case #16), no close contacts. 
* There are currently two (2) active COVID-19 positive cases in the DS community.
* This case does not appear to be connected or related to previous cases identified in school.

Today I was informed that there has been one (1) new case of COVID-19 reported within the Davis School (DS) Community. This case is in isolation at home. DS case #16 was present in school during their infectious period and investigations revealed that no close contacts were identified within the school community.

From the Council on Aging: Advance Care Planning

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope everyone has had a safe and wonderful holiday. As we enter a new year, many of us think about creating a new year’s resolution; a goal we set to achieve for the upcoming year ahead.

While there are many meaningful goals we can set for 2021, with the uncertainty of this past year, a good new year’s resolution goal to set for this upcoming year is advance care planning.

Community Preservation Committee ~ A Public Hearing on the FY22 Budget

The Covid-19 pandemic has suspended and modified a lot of growth and change locally – including community preservation projects.

The Community Preservation Committee last week voted to approve $1,777,680 in expenditures for projects and services in fiscal year 2022. The recommendations will be presented to the Select Board, which will decide about inclusion on the town meeting warrant.

Less than 8 percent of that total, however, is for new projects. More than half of the money goes to repayment of bonded projects, and the remainder is for work postponed at the abbreviated 2020 annual town meeting.

Superintendent’s Update ~ New Positive Covid Cases ~ 2 each at BHS & Davis, 1 at JGMS ~ Jan. 19, 2021

January 19, 2021

* Two (2) new COVID-19 positive cases at Bedford High School (BHS case #37 & case #38), no close contacts. 
* One (1) new COVID-19 case at JGMS (JGMS case #9), close contacts have been identified. 
* Two (2) new COVID-19 positive cases at Davis School (DS case# 14 & 15), no close contacts. 

There are currently two (2) active COVID-19 positive cases in the BHS community,  three (3) active cases in the JGMS community, two (2) active cases in the Lane School community, and (3) active cases in the Davis School community at this time. 

These current cases do not appear to be connected or related to previous cases identified in these schools.

Candidate Statement: Maureen Richichi ~ Bedford Board of Health

These uncertain days have led me to adopt this quote, attributed to Squire Bill Widener of Virginia in 1913, as my mantra: “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” I am excited to announce my candidacy for election to the Bedford Board of Health. I am honored to use my skills and expertise in this elected position that can have such a beneficial impact on our lives – as individuals, families, and a community.

I have been a Bedford resident for 33 years.  My husband, Frank, and I are grateful to have raised and educated our three sons in this wonderful town. My initial town involvement was in 1988 when Ronnie Gould and I were Co-Chairs of the Bedford Community Playground.  The success of this multigenerational project gave me a first-hand appreciation of the generosity, value, and power of community volunteers.

In the late 1980s, I represented town residents on the Bedford AIDS Task Force, a collaborative effort of town staff and boards, residents, and community partners.  As the Town of Bedford Youth and Family Services’ Prevention Coordinator (1997-2004), I was responsible for town-wide alcohol, drug, and tobacco prevention, outreach, and education. I am awaiting approval of my application to join Bedford’s Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T) as part of its Medical Reserves Corps and look forward to serving in this role.

BHS Girls’ Basketball ~ Home Game, Tuesday Jan. 19 at 4:30 pm, Livestream on Bedford TV

The surging girls’ basketball Buccaneers of Bedford High School entertains Wayland this week, beginning with Tuesday’s 4:30 p.m. home game that will be live-streamed on Bedford TV’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/BedfordTVMA)

The girls’ most recent success was a great team win, 56-30 at Weston on Friday. The balanced scoring attack was led by sophomore Sydney Poor with 13, Katherine Vaughn, a junior, added 10 and senior Shayla Fedele scored eight.

Dot’s Reading Room ~ ‘The Conversation’ a Compendium of Research Papers from Various Universities

For today I’m not calling your attention to a specific article but to an online source that I think is worth following.

It’s The Conversation and it is a compendium of research papers from authors at various universities. In the posting on Jan. 16, the subjects range from Covid-19, to white supremacists, to the rollout of the polio vaccine.

Briefly, The Conversation is a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good. “We publish trustworthy and informative articles written by academic experts for the general public and edited by our team of journalists.”

School Committee Budget Deliberations Move Forward

The Bedford School Committee is getting closer to decision time. Will it recommend a 3.75 percent budget increase for the coming year that reflects a return to pre-pandemic conditions? Or will it opt for a 7.1 budget increase that allows for a gradual recovery, including smaller class sizes across the elementary grades?

Some committee members say they need clarity on the advantages of a reduced classroom population before deciding