School Committee Praises Superintendent Conrad

The School Committee Tuesday took a few minutes to laud first-year Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad for his performance.

After he spent several minutes updating the committee on progress toward professional goals for the year, committee members took turns thanking and saluting Conrad.

Considering that his tenure has been shadowed by the Covid-19 virus and all of its consequences, “I’m impressed that you have managed to get this much done,” said committee member JoAnn Santiago.

School Committee Hears Plans for Elementary Summer School Program

The Bedford Public Schools will sponsor a four-week morning summer school program for up to 200 elementary school children who are assessed as having suffered “learning loss” during this academic year.

School Committee members heard the details from Assistant Superintendent Tricia Clifford at their meeting Tuesday. And they urged the administration to investigate summer programming for older students as well.

Ventilation in Schools Meets High Standards

Facilities Director Taissir Alani continues to assure the Bedford School Committee that ventilation equipment in the school is meeting the highest standards.

Alani presented contractor’s documents indicating levels of airflow in classrooms and other school spaces, comparing the designed capacity and the actual flow.

Full-time, In-Person Learning for All Bedford Students Begins on April 26

Correction: Bedford’s return to school date is April 26, not April 16 as erroneously posted in Wednesday’s headline

Students at Bedford High School and John Glenn Middle School are scheduled to return to full-time in-person learning on Monday, April 26, School Superintendent Philip Conrad told the School Committee at its meeting Tuesday, bringing the school system ever closer to pre-pandemic conditions not seen for more than a year.

Sabourin Field or Tsongas Arena for Commencement?

Nudged by concerns about Covid-19, the pendulum is swinging toward Armand Sabourin Field as the venue for Bedford High School commencement exercises on June 3.

Initially, the first choice was the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. School Superintendent Philip Conrad told the School Committee Tuesday that many area schools have used Tsongas, which has a capacity of more than 6,000.

Facilities Director Reassures School Committee on Classroom Ventilation

The Bedford schools’ facilities director left no doubt at the Bedford School Committee’s meeting Tuesday that Lane School classrooms are a safe place to breathe.

Facilities Director Taissir Alani delivered a detailed presentation on classroom ventilation, featuring how the equipment works and how it is maintained.

Pooled Testing for Covid Begins March 15 in All Schools

At least six weeks of weekly “pooled testing” for the Covid-19 coronavirus begins Monday in all Bedford schools for registered students and staff members.

The process, funded by state agencies for six weeks, accelerates identifying and isolating the presence of the virus.

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad’s office wrote to parents Wednesday soliciting permission. The communication explained, “Pooled testing involves mixing several individuals’ test samples together into one ‘pool’ and then testing the pooled sample for Covid-19.”

Breaking News: BHS and JGMS are On Track to Reopen for Full-Time Learning before the End of April

Bedford High School and John Glenn Middle School are on track to reopen for full-time learning before the end of April, administrators told the School Committee at its virtual meeting Tuesday.

Editor’s Note: Coverage of the March 9 School Committee meeting is underway and this article will be updated on Wednesday morning, March 10.

“My expectation is that we will be either on time or ahead of schedule,” said School Superintendent Philip Conrad. “Our planning committee continue to work and will come back. We will definitely beat the 28th.”

April 28 is the state-imposed deadline for all public schools to reopen grades 6-8. High school officials told the committee that they want to be in sync with the schedule at John Glenn Middle School. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has not set the timetable for the return of grades 9-12, but it has said that there will be an announcement sometime in April, followed by two weeks to implement.

EDCO Dissolves due to Financial Problems; Bedford May Face Share of Closing Costs

The School Committee this week voted to begin the process of terminating its relationship with Bedford-based EDCO Collaborative.

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad reported that there are two students participating in EDCO programs and several educators in professional development and courses. The ultimate dissolution of the agency could cost Bedford between $100,000 and $500,000, he said.

School Committee Votes Lane School Full Return as soon as March 15; Retains Full-Remote Option

Editor’s Note: This complete report amplifies and replaces Wednesday morning’s breaking news.

Third, fourth, and fifth-grade students will be returning to Lane School four days a week as soon as March 15, following a unanimous vote by the School Committee late Tuesday night.

The plan, which retains the full-remote option but drops hybrid, is based on converting the art room, library, and computer room to classrooms and doubling up pairs of adjoining rooms so they can be managed through connecting doors.

Reopening will require six new teachers and three additional educational assistants. The School Committee approved spending up to $136,000 to cover the salaries for three months. The total bill for reopening Lane and Davis Schools is about $273,000.

None of the Covid-19 protocols implemented this year will be compromised; indeed, the six-foot distancing is the reason for the classroom additions. “We know that our schools are safe. The data now is so clear,” said Dan Brosgol, School Committee chair. “In the absence of teacher vaccinations, I am not comfortable taking a step back from anything. I am happy to spend more to keep our protocols right where they are.”

Tuesday’s discussion and vote were preceded by more than an hour-and-a-half of public comments, comprising 31 speakers, most of whom advocated a return to in-person instruction.

First and Second Graders Could Return to Davis School by mid-March for In-Person Learning

The School Committee Tuesday unanimously endorsed the return of all first and second graders to Davis School four days a week beginning in mid-March.

The vote followed Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad’s recommendation. He told the committee that two classroom teachers and a special educator would be needed at an additional cost of $69,000. The motion specified that safety protocols will be sustained.

Breaking News: School Committee Votes Unanimously to Approve a Plan for Four-Days-a-Week Learning for Davis School in Mid-March

The School Committee Tuesday night voted unanimously to approve plans to restore four-day-a-week learning in Davis School, effective around mid-March.

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad said the cost will be around $69,000 for two new teachers plus a special educator for the remainder of the year. The motion also included language reiterating the safety protocols in the schools.

Davis School Principal Beth Benoit said every first and second grade would be in an actual classroom, as tables will be switched for individual desks and chairs. The model for the transition will be the successful return of kindergarten last week, she said.

Although plans call for eliminating the hybrid option, committee Chair Dan Brosgol said he wants to see the retention of that option investigated.

Click this link to read the updated details of the plan.

Baseline or Recovery? School Committee Presents Budget Options to FinCom on Feb. 4

The School Committee will present a three-pronged budget proposal for fiscal 2022 to the Finance Committee at a virtual meeting Thursday night.

The committee unanimously voted the following at its Tuesday meeting to recommend the following:

* A baseline budget of $43,360,038, a 3.8 percent increase over fiscal 2021, that reflects a continuation of the pre-pandemic operations. The proposal exceeds the Finance Committee’s 3.5 percent guideline by more than $127,000 and includes an additional 6.1 positions.
* Additional salaries and expenses of up to $1,444,957, including 17 additional teachers, to accommodate the return to school of all students while allowing for some continuing health and safety protocols. This has been labeled the “recovery” budget.
* Continuation of a current $450,000 supplement from the town to finance extraordinary out-of-district special education costs.

The recommendations were presented by Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad. They culminate several weeks of discussion of budget options. (So far, a worst-case-scenario version, which would maintain all pandemic protocols with all students returning, has not been addressed in detail.)

Hooray for School! Kindergarteners Elated to be Together

Bedford kindergarteners reunited at Davis School Monday for the first time in almost a year. And School Superintendent Philip Conrad said, “It really was like the first day of school.”

Although the return to full-time in-person instruction was truncated by a weather-related early dismissal, “it was really wonderful They seemed to be in great spirits,” Conrad told the School Committee Tuesday.

The return culminated weeks of planning after the School Committee directed Conrad to come up with a plan to reunite the kindergarteners. The return required some space modifications and new hires.  He praised Davis School Principal Beth Benoit, Assistant Principal Jessica Colby,  and kindergarten teachers and staff for preparing everything for everyone.

Conrad noted that after the brief reunion, kindergarteners missed Tuesday because of the snowstorm. Wednesday is a district-wide remote learning day, so the next time the children will connect is Thursday.  “The kindergarteners came back and it was really fun to see them,” Conrad said. “The staff had done an incredible job to prepare them for the changes. They all knew where they were going.”

Joy in Learning Math: School Committee Adopts Bridges Program for Elementary Students

A new core mathematics instruction approved by the School Committee last week will align the system used by students at Lane School with their younger cohort at Davis School.

The Bridges program will replace Envision, which is not aligned with Massachusetts educational frameworks for Grades 3-5, according to Annie Pumphrey, mathematics specialist for the elementary grades in Bedford.

Before the pandemic arrived, plans called for a year-long pilot program with certain classes. Rather than push everything back a year, Pumphrey said, there will be a three-year staggered implementation, beginning with Grade 3, which will ensure a smooth transition from Davis School.

Social and Emotional Wellness amid Covid-19 for Students and Faculty

The counseling team in the Bedford Public Schools was managing a mental health crisis — before the arrival of the pandemic almost 11 months ago.

Now, according to the schools’ director of counseling, “issues are amplified. People’s resiliency in the face of all of these challenges is down. Things are more challenging right now and our resources are strained.”

Alicia Linsey shared details at the School Committee meeting last week. Her presentation was entitled “Social and Emotional Wellness amid Covid-19 for Students and Faculty.”

FY22 School Committee Budget ~ Public Hearing: Tuesday, Feb. 2 FinCom Review: Thursday, Feb. 4

The process of formulating a proposed fiscal 2022 budget for the Bedford Public Schools is nearing its climax, with two milestones scheduled for next week.

The School Committee will hold an open hearing on Feb. 2 at 7 pm via the Zoom webinar link available on the meeting agenda, posted at Bedfordps.org – School Committee Agendas.

Then on Thursday evening, the administration and committee will review budget details with the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee recommendation is the one that is printed in the town meeting warrant.

Bedford Schools Seek Funding for Pooled Testing

The Bedford Public Schools have applied to participate in a state-funded six-week regimen of pooled testing for the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad said Thursday morning that “we will hear back from them soon.  In the meantime, we are preparing all of the documents we will need for a smooth implementation and will have more information for the community soon.” Parents will receive information and permission forms.

If the schools want to continue the testing past March 28, they will need other funding options.

School Committee Hears Cost to Return Elementary Students to School Full Time ~ Public Hearing on Budget Set for Feb. 2

School Committee Hears Cost to Return Elementary Students to School Full Time; Public Hearing on Budget Set for Feb. 2

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad told the School Committee Tuesday that elementary school students could return en masse to their classrooms sometime in March for a cost of around $150,000. A decision is likely at the Feb. 23 School Committee meeting.

Conrad also noted that the principals of the middle and high school are evaluating how to integrate struggling students into classroom seats that are currently empty.

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.