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Superintendents Update - Monday, March 16, 2020


Dear Families and Staff–

Today, Monday March 16, 2020 is day #2 of our school closure. For some reason in my home it feels like a longer period of time given the weekend days we all spent together. I am sure to a certain extent each of our homes feel different right now as our “new normal” will shift for a period of time here locally in Belmont and across our country.

As you know, over the weekend Governor Baker announced new expectations for the Commonwealth that have state-wide impact and local school impact. I would like to provide you with an update on how these changes apply to the Belmont Public Schools.

First and foremost we want to reinforce the Governor’s expectation that all families exercise social distancing for their own health and the collective health of our community.  This includes how our students socialize, play, and gather during these days of school closure.  This is a tall order for our parents and guardians given the nice weather and too much time on our hands…but it is of huge importance for everyone to adhere to the social distancing recommendations.

There are many resources being made available to the public on different websites for you to review.  I have read one article that may be helpful for families  - please see the link: Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day

A few items of update as some things have changed since Friday and again since yesterday:

  1. The school closure for the Belmont Public Schools is now in place per the state until April 6. At this point in time the first day back to school would be April 7, 2020. Please not that this return date could be extended by the state our locally pending the circumstances and the recommendation of our Board of Health.
  2. We are providing meals for our free and reduced students Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week at Belmont High School between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. We will monitor this process to see what modifications we may need to make to better serve our students.  We are off to a great start with some family volunteers.  We will not need any more volunteers as it is manageable with our current team.
  3. All school buildings and Central Office are closed to the public and we will be responding to question and concerns via email and phone. School access is available to staff but closed to the public.  All Town departments are closed to the public and their staff are in responding to calls and emails.
  4. We have taken part in several conference calls with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeff Riley over  the last five days.  The most recent guidance was provided in a conference call this morning (Monday, March 16, 2020). The Commissioner recommended that all school districts begin to prepare, organize and communicate their plans for engaging students remotely to provide educational support and enrichment. Our Directors and Principals have had initial discussions about what the goals and expectations would be for student learning during this time. This organizational work will take a few days as we collectively discuss and put forward our plans that are age and grade level appropriate. We will take the guidance from DESE and make sure we are able to customize it for our local community. Please continue to check your email for further updates and information.
  5. The Commissioner and all Superintendents are looking down the road to issues like MCAS, SAT, AP exams. The state is in the process of discussing these issues and will provide guidance as soon as it becomes available.

As a community, we need to do our best as it relates to washing  hands, social distancing, and being vigilant about our interactions to help flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19.

Respectfully,

John P. Phelan
Superintendent of Schools
Belmont, Massachusetts






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