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Superintendent's Newsletter January 15, 2021

date 1/15/2021

We want to begin this first newsletter of 2021 by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. There is much to look forward to this year. For the first time since the pandemic began, we see COVID vaccines in sight, bringing renewed hope for the future.

As you know, this new year also gives us a new president on January 20. We are hopeful our nation can find a way to heal and move past differences. Please know while we are hoping for a peaceful day, the day may spur conversations nonetheless. Our staff is prepared to answer any questions and thoughts our students may have to ensure they are being heard, supported, and that what they think and feel matters.

MLK-2021.jpg The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is on Monday, January 18, and school is not in session. School will resume on Tuesday, January 19. Renee Graham is speaking at Belmont's 27th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast. This year's breakfast, held virtually, will be available to view on January 18 at 9:00 am through Belmont Media Center.

Renee Graham, Boston Globe Associate Editor and Op-Ed Columnist, will address "Rejecting 'Normal', Embracing Radical Change: Can we build a democracy that finally lives up to it's ideals?" The event is co-sponsored by Belmont Human Rights Commission, Belmont Against Racism, and Belmont Media Center. Please go to Eventbrite to register. For more information, please see the Belmont Human Rights Commission page on the Town website.

The event is free but donations to the Belmont METCO Support Fund are appreciated. The fund helps to pay for late day transportation for our Belmont METCO students participating in sports, arts, and clubs at BHS with the goal of providing an equitable and inclusive community for our students. The breakfast is the main fundraising event for this fund. Please go to the BPS website for more information on this event and how to register.

Have a wonderful long weekend. Please see the table of contents below:

School Committee
Kindergarten Registration for School Year 2021-2022

Staff Retirement
School News
Athletics
Comcast Internet Essentials Program
Save the Date
Useful Information

SCHOOL COMMITTEE

COVID Testing Update: Families received an email on January 12 outlining where our district is in terms of COVID testing, and we discussed this briefly at the School Committee meeting on January 12. We will give a more detailed update at the January 19 School Committee meeting. Below are the steps Belmont has taken and explored thus far:

  • Have access to state-sponsored mobile testing unit; DESE will make this available if a potential cluster of COVID-19 is identified in a Town and transmission appears to have occurred within school
  • Applied for the Abbot BinaxNOW antigen testing of students and staff. Training for our nurse will begin when we receive the necessary materials.  This is a test for individuals who present with symptoms during the day, this is not surveillance testing
  • Applied for the state COVID pool surveillance testing 
  • Continued to pursue additional testing options with Belmont Board of Health, BPS School Nursing Department with partnering districts

Elementary and CMS Hybrid Advisory Groups' Updates: The elementary and middle school hybrid advisory groups presented their findings to the School Committee at the January 12 meeting. Both groups analyzed survey data from parents/guardians, staff, and students (at the middle school) to consider the best path forward to enhance and improve the elementary and middle school hybrid models. The groups recommend the following:

  • Elementary: change the specials (art, music, PE) from asynchronous videos to live/synchronous remote classes; change Wednesdays from in-person days (that alternated between cohorts) to fully remote synchronous for all students; increase the in-person days (M,T,TH,F) to offset the decrease of in-person time on Wednesdays; and add optional live drop-ins with specials teachers on Wednesdays midday. 
  • Middle: remove the WIN (What I Need) blocks from the in-person days and reallocate that time to live remote instruction of ELA, math, social studies, and science in the afternoons; add live remote encore instruction in the afternoons; and lengthen the periods on remote synchronous Wednesdays. 

We met this week with our educators to go over these recommendations. As a district, we will continue looking at the models, focusing on key standards, and actively doing work with teachers to improve teaching and learning for students.

Student Learning Time Update: At the January 5 meeting, Assistant Superintendent Janice Darias presented an update on student learning times, clarifying the new DESE regulations issued on December 15. These new regulations asked districts across the state to review the average number of live instruction hours and daily contact between teachers and students in their remote and hybrid education models. The remote models all meet the recommendations, and the school advisory committees are reviewing the hybrid models for changes that need to be implemented to meet the required hours. Please read more on this subject in the email sent to families on December 15.

Return to In-Person Committee: We are forming a Return to In-Person Committee as mentioned in the Superintendent's update to the School Committee at the January 12 meeting. With vaccines and testing on the horizon, this committee will explore the opportunities and challenges for more in-person learning in the spring and fall. The makeup of the committee will be determined over the next week.

FY22 Budget: January is the time Belmont Public Schools conduct prime time for budget discussions with the School Committee and other Town departments. This year the pandemic, and planning for the next few years, has made this work especially challenging. We are in the process finalizing a three-year funding plan to present to the Town with the hope that an override vote will be on the ballot in April 2021. We have included positions that we feel are needed for FY22, FY23, and FY24. The next three years will be pivotal in supporting the incremental need for staff to address our current class size issues and to build our staffing levels incrementally for when we shift to our new grade configuration. In September 2023, we move our 7 and 8th graders, and in September 2024, we move our grade 5 students to the new 4-6 upper elementary school at the Chenery site. We presented the FY22 Budget Trajectory to the School Committee at the January 5 meeting to give a fuller outline of what the next several budget years will look like while the Town plans for a possible override on the April ballot. 

Upcoming Budget Meetings:

  • The next School Committee Budget Finance Subcommittee is on January 19 at 8:00 a.m.
  • The Select Board will meet on January 22 to consider the Financial Task Force 2 override proposal. Please see the Town calendar closer to that date for more information.
  • The Warrant Committee held their second their second informational meeting on the financial state of the Town on January 7. You can see their presentation on the Town website. They will hold their third meeting on the financial state of the Town during this month. Please check the Town calendar for the date.

Student Opportunity Act: The School Committee approved the Student Opportunity Act Plan at the January 12 meeting. This is the plan that is required by DESE to explain how the district will use the additional Chapter 70 funding from the state to address opportunity gaps in subgroups. The legislation was approved in late 2019 but the funding in year one of the multi-year plan was limited so only some districts received extra chapter 70 funds. Belmont did not received additional funds, however all districts must submit the 3-year plan. Our district plan is to continue and deepen our work of improving the school experience and learning outcomes for our black and brown students. The development of the plan included community engagement and feedback opportunities, which took place in March 2020. Please see the original presentation to the School Committee on March 10, 2020.

Chair's Report: School Committee Chair Andrea Prestwich answers your questions in her Chair's Report Presentation of January 12.

Food Services Update: Food Services Director Dustin O'Brien presented an update on food services to the School Committee at the January 5 meeting. Please see the presentation that outlines all food services is doing to help our families. Dustin was also recently a guest on Belmont Media's News Now program that spotlighted the Food Services department.

Belmont Family Engagement Network (BFEN): Belmont Parents organized a family engagement network to help families have a liaison to the School Committee and School Department. They will hold community discussions, please see their presentation to the School Committee on January 5 for more information.

The next School Committee meeting is on Tuesday, January 19 at 6:30 p.m.

KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION FOR SCHOOL YEAR 2021-2022 OPENS ONLINE JANUARY 29, 2021

Kindergarten Registration 2021-2022.png Belmont Public Schools Online Registration for your Incoming Kindergartner opens January 29, 2021 for School Year 2021-2022. We are pleased to announce BPS offers free tuition for kindergarten. Please see important registration information below for current BPS families: 

  • You do not need to register a grade 1-12 existing Belmont Public Schools student again.
  • You do need to register your incoming kindergartner even if you are a current Belmont Public Schools family. To ensure placement of your incoming kindergartner at the same elementary school as your grade 1-4 child, please submit all required documents to complete registration for your incoming kindergartner by April 9.
  • Current Wellington preschool families will be emailed registration instructions.
  • To enter Kindergarten, the child must be five years old on or before September 1st of the year they will attend school.

If you have any questions regarding your registration, please contact the school you registered with.

STAFF RETIREMENT

Please join me in wishing the following people well who recently retired. We will honor all staff who are retiring this school year at our June School Committee meeting:

  • Romario Castro - Chenery Custodian
  • Joan DiPace - Wellington Classroom Assistant
  • Cathy Grant - Executive Assistant to the Superintendent
  • Hester Murray - Winn Brook Special Education Teacher
  • Patty Soliozy - BPS Math Director

SCHOOL NEWS

  • Author Kyandreia Jones.JPG This week, Butler fourth graders had the opportunity to meet “Choose Your Own Adventure” author, Kyandreia Jones through a great virtual workshop, thanks to collaboration between the Butler PTA and Belmont Books. Butler fourth graders learned how to craft their own “Choose Your Own Adventure!”
  • Congratulations to BHS student Jason Yang, who is among the top 300 scholars in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2021, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. The Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars were selected from 1,760 applications received from 611 high schools across 45 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and 10 countries. Scholars were chosen based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists, and hail from 198 American and international high schools in 37 states, Puerto Rico, Chinese Taipei, and Singapore.
  • CMS Clone Spirit Day.jpg Chenery students participated in the popular Clones Spirit Day. Students dressed alike on their hybrid or remote day of school on January 12 or 15. This is one of the many spirit days throughout the year organized by the CMS Student Council.
  • BHS Marauders of the Week for January 15 is Brigid Hannibal, and for December 18 are Isaiah Gullage and Knar Krafian. Please read more about these students on the BHS website.
  • The English Language Education Department is excited to announce new parent programming (PK-12) and middle school programming (5th-8th) for English Learners and their families. On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the ELL Department is offering beginner and advanced Parent English classes, taught by ELE teachers Jane Brandt and Donna Stanton. No matter your level, you are welcome to come to either or both classes. Please email the teachers at jbrandt@belmont.k12.ma.us or dstanton@belmont.k12.ma.us.
    -On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Chenery English Learners can join teacher Donna Stanton from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. for the new Chenery Conversation Club.  This is a place where English Language Learners in grades 5-8 can practice English and build friendships. For more information, please email Donna Stanton at dstanton@belmont.k12.ma.us.
    -For more information on these programs and other ELE programs and resources, please visit the ELE parent page on the BPS website.

ATHLETICS

Please see the viewing information and athletic schedule for winter sports this week from January 13 to January 18.

INTERNET ESSENTIALS PROGRAM FROM COMCAST

Internet provider Comcast has made adjustments to its new policy that caps how much low-income families pay if they go over the new data limit. This policy, called the Internet Essentials Program, has options for low-income customers who are nearing their data cap. This is a national policy that is now in our area but the implementation part of the program begins April 2021 so families in the program may start receiving alerts and “charges” in January. Because of this later implementation, families will be credited in April for any amount they go over in January, February, and March. Please contact Comcast for any questions or concerns.

SAVE THE DATE

  • Belmont SEPAC Please see upcoming SEPAC Parent Information Sessions on the SEPAC website. The next session is Basic Rights, Evaluation and Eligibility, presented by The Federation for Children with Special Needs on January 28.
  • FBE Spelling and Trivia Bee 2021.png The Foundation for Belmont Education (FBE) Virtual Spelling Bee and Trivia night will be held on February 6. The Virtual Bee is able to include more groups by dividing into two segments this year: a Family Bee and a Teen and Adult Bee. Please see the FBE website for more information on this community-wide event.

USEFUL INFORMATION

For your convenience, below are links to useful information from previous newsletters.

Belmont Public Schools:

Town and State:

Organizations:


Butler first grade recess.jpg  MLK-2021.jpg  Kindergarten Registration 2021-2022.png  FBE Spelling and Trivia Bee 2021.png  Clone Spirit Day CMS.jpg  CMS Clone Spirit Day.jpg  Author Kyandreia Jones.JPG  Belmont SEPAC 


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