Performing Arts in the Bedford Schools ~ Music and Drama in the Time of Pandemic

Performing arts teachers in the Bedford schools are relying on energy, creativity, and technology to build a meaningful academic year despite debilitating virus-imposed restrictions.

And there’s another key ingredient: collegiality.

“The Performing Arts Department works really well together and enjoys collaboration. We are very supportive of one another regularly checking in and offering moral support,” said Nicole O’Toole, program director for kindergarten through high school.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive COVID Test at BHS ~ October 23, 2020

3 New positive COVID-19 cases at BHS – 9 Pending Cases – Close Contacts being Notified New and recent cases related to gatherings outside of the school environment

Sadly, we were informed today that a number of school community members (i.e., student or staff) at Bedford High School have been diagnosed with confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is of course very disappointing news. We have learned that there have been multiple gatherings that have occurred outside of the high school but have involved Bedford High School students and families.

These cases involve gatherings where safety precautions were not taken by both adults and students to protect against the spread of COVID. Since October 1, 2020 there have been 9 COVID-19 positive cases at the high school among students. Of those cases, 4 have become positive since October 21, 2020. Since contract tracing is still being conducted, there may be more pending positive cases or close contacts identified that result from the gatherings. Currently, 15 high school students are under quarantine.

Upon receipt of the positive reports, the Bedford school health personnel in collaboration with 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 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 investigation to date has revealed that these COVID-19 positive school community members may have been present at Bedford High School during their infectious period, and close contacts are being identified among the school community in this situation. All close contacts will be identified and instructed to quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure to the person who tested positive, regardless of a test result. We will continue to monitor this situation over the weekend and decide if the number of positive cases and close contacts requires Bedford High School to move to an ALL REMOTE model for the 14-day quarantine period.

The Board of Health is currently awaiting receipt of COVID-19 testing results for numerous close contacts of the aforementioned individuals. This data will enable us to determine how widespread the situation is at this time. Based on the analytical results of these pending tests, I am letting you know that it is very possible that we may need to close Bedford High School and transition from the Hybrid Model to the Full Remote Model. I will make this decision in collaboration with the Health and Human Services Director, Town Manager, and the Bedford School Committee and will communicate to the community Sunday, October 25, 2020

If this were to happen, BHS would be closed from Monday, October 26, 2020, and reopen on Monday, November 9, 2020.

Superintendent Conrad’s Friday Update – October 23, 2020

Thank you to everyone for all of your hard work and your tireless efforts on behalf of our students! We all recognize that our success is due to the hours and hours of preparation and learning that our teachers, parents, administrators, and other school staff are spending preparing for students in person and in the hybrid model.

Our teachers are learning to instruct and instructing our students through technology simultaneously. An amazing feat when you think about the fact that they have done this in less than a year. Our families are creating positive learning environments at home too. This is without a doubt a Herculean task and I am so grateful to all of you for your efforts.

Thank you to our parents who continue to collaborate with all of us to do what is best for students. Our community efforts are inspiring. In these unprecedented times, our community has risen to the challenge. For that I am grateful.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Positive COVID Test at BHS ~ October 16, 2020

Today [October 16], I was informed that a school community member (i.e., student or staff) at Bedford High School has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19. This is a separate school community member than what was reported a couple of days ago. Please note that this case is not related to any of the previous cases at BHS and is not a contact of those previous cases.

New COVID-19 Positive Case at the BHS – 5th positive case at BHS to date. No Close Contacts in Bedford Schools – Not Related to previously identified cases

Superintendent’s Update ~ Friday, October 16, 2020

Thank you for all of the continued support as we continue in our hybrid and remote learning models. I appreciate that everyone is working together to make the very best of the current situation. If you or your children are in need of support please check out the Counseling Department’s BPS Health and Wellness Website which contains a number of wonderful resources for all of us.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Friday, October 9, 2020

This week has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases here in town and in the schools. As a community, we moved from green to yellow (9/30/20) and have remained there (10/7/20).

Responding to Positive Cases of COVID-19 and Contact Tracing – FAQ October 6, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19 and their Response to Positive Cases and Contact Tracing.

Will the names of positive COVID-19 cases in the school community be released?
No

Will personal health information be released on COVID-19 positive cases?
No.

Will the identification of individual classrooms occupied by positive cases be released?
At this time, no.

If it is determined that my child is not a close contact, will I be informed that a child/teacher in my child’s class has tested positive?
At this time, no.

How will I know if there is a case of COVID-19 in my child’s classroom/school?
The school nurses strive to monitor illness and potential COVID-19 cases as well as identify any possible positive cases in the school community. Recognizing the importance of protecting confidentiality and following the MA DPH guidelines for close contact management, at this time you will be only notified if your child is considered a close contact.

If my child is diagnosed with COVID-19, will his/her/their privacy be maintained?
Your child’s name will not be revealed if diagnosed with COVID-19. Close contacts will be notified and told that they have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and will be provided with information about quarantine and given further instructions. No personal identification will be given to others.

Bedford is One of Six Recipients of MAPC’s Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan Grant

Bedford will soon embark on a year-long process to plan and implement a racial equity action plan for municipal and school employees, at no cost to the town.

The program, awarded competitively, is called REMAP, an acronym for the Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan. It is sponsored by a collaboration among three government entities: the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Funding for the consultants involved will be covered as a technical assistance grant. The six recipients were announced this week.

The first four months will focus on “tailored” training, reflection, and self-assessment. Beginning in February, the town will turn to developing a starting to implement a racial equity municipal action plan.

“It is going to be wonderful to have such valuable consulting that we would not normally be able to get,” stated Town Manager Sarah A. Stanton, who said she will be the point person for execution and implementation.

She said the process will focus on “working with staff and some elected officials to put together policy initiatives.” The agenda includes examining current guidelines and procedures and creating an action plan for the next steps.

Parents Diversity Council’s Book Club Choice ~ An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

The second installment of the Bedford schools’ Parents Diversity Council (PDC) book club series is underway, with the first discussion session scheduled for October 14 on Zoom.

Participants are reading a young people’s version of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, an American Book Award winner by the historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

Discussion questions are being sent to readers, in preparation for meetings on Wednesdays, October 14 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. These sessions will include breakout groups. Then on Tuesday, November 10, the local educator and indigenous activist Claudia Fox Tree will make a community presentation. Each session will acknowledge the tribal land that today is Bedford.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Friday, October 2, 2020

Over the past week, I have had the pleasure of visiting classrooms in each of our four schools. Each visit has allowed me to learn more about the schools, the classrooms, our students, and our teachers. After having spent so much time talking about teaching and learning this summer, it has been wonderful to see it in person. I cannot tell you how impressed I have been with the adaptability of our students and teachers. They continue to learn and adapt with incredible perseverance, grit, and determination. Thank you also to our families for supporting our in-person and remote learners as we continue to get used to the current routine.

Superintendent’s Update ~ Wednesday, September 30, 2020

I 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 John Glenn Middle 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 JGMS was not present at school during their infectious period, therefore, no close contacts were identified among the school community in this situation.

Our first responsibility is to keep our school community safe. We have been planning for this scenario during our reopening planning process and have a comprehensive plan in place to sanitize the school each school day, inform families whose students were at risk of exposure or in close contact, and support the affected family as they navigate this stressful experience.

Our school community has been closely adhering to safety protocols including mask-wearing, hand washing, and physical distancing. We are grateful to our families for their continued efforts to keep students home at the first sign of symptoms. These measures, taken in combination, greatly reduce the risk of additional transmission. Though we cannot provide specific information about our school community member who tested positive, your child was not a close contact (defined as being within 6 feet of the person for at least 15 minutes) of the affected school member. Please continue to monitor your child for symptoms, and keep your child home if he/she/they show any symptoms or is not feeling well.

We will continue to be vigilant in adhering to all of the protocols that have been put in place in an effort to continue in-person learning via our current hybrid model. We are also providing remote learning for all students required to quarantine at home to continue to provide instruction, structure, and an emotional connection to the classroom during a time that we know will be challenging for those children and families involved.

Parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of Covid-19.

School Committee’s First Meeting Focuses on Assuring Success in the 2020-2021 School Year

At the first School Committee meeting Tuesday since the start of school on Sept. 16, the focus shifted from understanding the intricate details of the reopening plan to ensuring success under the hybrid format and other administrative tasks.

Reflecting on the start of school, Superintendent Philip Conrad said it was nice having students back at all four schools.

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.

BHS Opening Day All-School Meeting Ended after Interruption

Editor’s Note: A late-afternoon robocall from the Bedford Police cautioned that there is apt to be heavy traffic around town on Thursday, September 16, and Friday, September 17, particularly in the area near the high school as school buses, parents, and students arrive for the first day of in-person classes for Cohorts A and B. Principal Heather Galante emailed families and caregivers on Wednesday evening to let them know that Bedford Police and Fire departments cleared the building after the apparent threats that halted Wednesday’s all-school meeting. Nonetheless, protocol dictates an increased police presence at Bedford High School tomorrow. Galante also noted, and appreciated, the hundreds of supportive emails the administration received after the incident.

A virtual all-school meeting on Bedford High School’s opening day was interrupted by obscene language and a possible bomb threat made by one or more participants using the meeting’s ‘chat’ function.  Wednesday’s interruption is akin to unwanted, disruptive intrusions, generally by Internet trolls and hackers, into a video conference call.

The meeting ended quickly after students and school officials noticed offensive language and an apparent mention of a bomb in the chat.

In an email to students, Bedford High Principal Heather Galante and Assistant Principals Daniel Hudder and Thomas Casey wrote that the school administration is “disgusted by the behavior and embarrassed by some of the students’ poor decisions.”

Since the user issued an apparent threat to the High School, the Bedford police department was notified.

In a follow-up email to parents, Galante noted, “The chat was supposed to be disabled and was not, and some students posted highly offensive and threatening content.”

Neither a spokesperson for Bedford Public Schools nor the Bedford Police Department was available for comment due to an on-going investigation.

POMS Pop-Up Music: A Summer Success!

 

If you were near the Town Center complex in the late morning this past Monday, you may have heard the dulcet tones of a jazz quartet. BHS junior Colin O’Toole led the group on trumpet, with music faculty Jim Felker on drums, Katrina Faulstich on keyboard, and Evan Grunwald on bass. Town staff, along with nearby neighbors and a few curious families who headed over from the Tot Lot playground, enjoyed fifteen minutes of jazz standards in the bright September sunshine. Monday’s concert was one of fifteen Pop-Up Music events in August and September coordinated by Bedford Patrons of Music Students (POMS). Five different groups comprised of fourteen student musicians performed all over Bedford, from backyards to driveways to front lawns.

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.”

Superintendent’s Update on Reopening the Bedford Schools ~ September 11, 2020

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.

School Counselors are Ready for Reopening

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.

An Inside Look Into The School Reopening Proccess

Enrollment trends. On-site response to issues. Talking during lunch. Air quality and buses.

 These were among the bullet points in the school reopening update Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad shared with the School Committee Monday evening.

 

These were among the bullet points in the school reopening update Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad shared with the School Committee Monday evening.

Opening Bedford Schools, 2020 ~ Parents’ Perspectives

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

School Committee Approves Mask Policy

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.

Superintendent’s Update on Reopening the Bedford Schools ~ September 4, 2020

Welcome to September!

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 School Lunch Program ~ 2020-2021 School Year

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.

Educating others should be an enabling act of love and liberation, not didacticism and indoctrination ~ Jon Sills

“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.”