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Update on School Opening and School Committee Presentation

School Opening Fall 2020 Superintendent's Bulletin #2 - Update on School Opening and School Committee Presentation

Dear Parents and Staff,

At the School Committee meeting held on July 16, Assistant Superintendent Janice Darias gave a presentation called Update on School Opening 2020-2021. This presentation looked at:

  • Reminder of the process, May-June
  • Feedback from families in June survey
  • Work completed in mid-June to mid-July
  • Current work
  • Questions from the public for this meeting
  • Timelines and next steps

As you know, DESE requested a feasibility study looking at a 3-foot physically distanced full-opening, which is due by July 31. This was originally reported to you in the Superintendent’s Summer Update, sent on July 9. We are also preparing plans for hybrid and remote options, due to DESE by August 10. The work in planning the three options is being done through the collaborative efforts of the school administration, the Leadership Council, principals, the BEA, and educators. As always in our planning, we work in partnership with our Board of Health, Police, Fire, and other Town departments, who we meet with regularly. 

We have completed the feasibility study of a full opening for all students and have determined that it is not possible to maintain the minimum 3-foot physical distance for all classrooms at every grade and school. Therefore we have now turned our attention to developing a hybrid model where half the students would learn in person while the other half learned remotely, alternating regularly, by day or week. Reducing the number of students in person by half allows for proper physical distancing. We are also working to create plans for remote learning that will include a schedule of synchronous classes and live instruction for students. In order to safely open in a hybrid model we will need more days with staff only in September to review health protocols in order to prepare to welcome students safely. It is possible that the first day for students will be pushed back to September 8.  Any calendar changes as well as the hybrid and remote learning plans will be presented at the next School Committee meeting and public forum.

We had originally scheduled a School Committee meeting and public forum for August 11 but, since the DESE deadline of August 10 was just announced, we will find a time for the meeting and forum before the DESE deadline to get feedback from the community on the three fully-formed back to school options. We will communicate this new date to the Belmont community as soon as it is confirmed. In addition, we will survey families in August on their students’ plans to return to school to have a sense of our community’s intentions given what the latest state and local health guidelines are at that time.

The impact of the three plans on families is not lost on the school administration. The July 9 Superintendent’s Newsletter asked families to submit questions for an answer during the School Committee meeting on July 16. There were 84 questions submitted. We hope the presentation answers some of those questions. Some questions we answered in the meeting which can be viewed on the School Committee tab in the Belmont Media Center website page.  Some we don’t have the answers to just yet as we are still developing the three possible options and waiting for information on state guidance on other operational areas such as busing and funding. We appreciate the continued patience and constructive input we have received from the community to help us in our planning.

Please see more information on COVID-19 and School Opening Fall 2020 located on the front news section of the BPS website.


John P. Phelan
Superintendent of Schools
Belmont, Massachusetts