Dr. Shultz December 4th Update

Full Virtual Learning Extended Until January
Posted on 12/04/2020
Update from the Superintendent, Dr. Carl ShultzDecember 4, 2020
Dear BPS Families,

On November 12, 2020, Bedford Public Schools suspended all in-person learning programs due to the sharp increase in confirmed positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff members. I stated at that time that it is the district’s belief that students and staff members are safer within our classrooms and hallways than in any other public location. I still believe this statement to be true thanks in part to the comprehensive mitigation strategies that our district has employed to ensure a safe learning environment. I also know that BPS students and staff do not reside within a bubble and thus spend a majority of their days and evenings outside of our classrooms with family, friends, and other members of the community. This daily and completely normal exposure by members of the district leads to COVID-19 exposure on many levels. Bedford Public Schools, like any other public entity, must follow the strict guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and our state and local health departments. In doing so, BPS students and staff must quarantine whenever they have been deemed as a close contact (exposure within six feet for a total of fifteen minutes to a confirmed positive individual). At the time of the district’s announcement to suspend in-person learning, BPS had a total of 138 students and 24 staff members in fourteen-day quarantine, ultimately leading to the decision to suspend in-person instruction until revisited at the December 3, 2020 Board of Education Meeting.

At last evening’s Board of Education Meeting, a review of BPS related COVID-19 data was presented. Unlike in previous discussions, the district could not focus on our current number of district-wide quarantines because our students and staff have been working from their homes. BPS is currently reporting 11 staff members as either positive or close contacts due to outside exposure. However, because we are not physically in session, we are unable to determine the accuracy of the number of students or staff members who are currently in quarantine. Therefore, the focus for last evening’s review was the number of positive cases residing within Bedford Township as a whole and the ages of these positive individuals (school-aged students 5-18). Unfortunately, these two very important pieces of township data are not trending in the right direction demonstrating large week-to-week increases. As previously stated, BPS students and staff make up a large portion of the Bedford Community and thus our data throughout the pandemic has mirrored one another.

Utilizing this background knowledge and current verified data, the Bedford Board of Education unanimously supported the recommendation last evening to remain in our current full-virtual learning program through the next scheduled Board of Education Meeting on January 7, 2020. At this meeting, the Board will once again review the most current data available to determine if it is reasonable to begin transitioning students and staff back into our buildings. I want to reassure our community that our Board and I believe that it is imperative that we return to in-person learning as soon as possible. We truly understand the inherent challenges associated with learning remotely and the stresses that it places on families and student learning. However, the continuity of remote learning is more promising than the option of bouncing students, families, and staff back and forth weekly based on positive case number spikes and necessary quarantining. The stability of our remote learning plan allows families to plan and reduces the anxiety of what next week may bring for their child.

I wanted to end this message with some positive information. As discussed at last evening’s meeting there are reasons to be hopeful. Just this week the CDC announced that their guidelines for quarantining individuals who are identified as close contacts of persons with COVID-19 have been updated from 14 days to 10 days (7 days if the close contact showed no symptoms and receives a negative diagnostic COVID-19 test). This reduction of quarantine will help districts such as BPS with staffing issues when we begin to transition back to in-person learning. In addition, based on initial reports, the United States is likely to follow European nations by officially approving multiple COVID-19 vaccinations within the next couple of weeks. According to CDC Board discussions, educational personnel will be included in the second phase of vaccination recipients or Phase 1b (Phase 1a are Health Care Professionals and Long-term care facilities). While none of us knows for sure the exact timeline for the phasing and availability of the vaccines, it is believed that educators could be offered the opportunity sometime in January or February. Although these future positive pieces may not immediately support returning to in-person learning, they do open the door for improved conditions and for the opportunity of returning our buildings to a more traditional daily schedule when opened.

As always, I hope that this update finds you and your family safe and well and that everyone has a peaceful and restful holiday season.

Respectfully,

Dr. Carl Shultz
Superintendent, Bedford Public Schools
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