Belmont’s First Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration Monday At Winn Brook

Photo: The first Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in Belmont will take place at the Winn Brook Playground on Monday, Oct. 11 at 9:30 a.m.

Belmont will celebrate its first Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration on Monday, Oct. 11 beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Winn Brook Elementary School Field.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day replaces Columbus Day through a vote of Town Meeting at the annual meeting in May.

Town officials and leaders of local organizations will make speeches as BOMBAntillana, practitioners of the oldest living musical tradition of the people of Puerto Rico, will entertain with music and dance drawn from the enslaved West African and Taino people who were forced to labor in sugar cane plantations.

Indigenous Peoples Day honors the past, present, and futures of Native peoples throughout the United States. Belmont sits on the original homeland of the Pequosette Tribe.

The day is being sponsored by Belmont Against Racism, Belmont School Department, Belmont Select Board, Belmont Public Library, Belmont Religious Council, Belmont Human Rights Commission, Community Organized for Solidarity, Belmont High School PTSO, Burbank School PTA, Butler School PTA, Chenery Middle School PTO, Wellington School PTO, Winn Brook School PTA, and Belmont Books.

Meeting/Vote On Winn Brook Tennis Court Expansion, Wednesday, Feb. 10

Photo: Design of the two proposals for courts at Winn Brook

The Belmont Recreation Commission will host a second public ZOOM meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m., via Zoom, to discuss and solicit feedback on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) request to add additional tennis court/courts at Winn Brook Playground.

The court/courts would be added in the area between Joey’s Park playground and the existing tennis courts, to add one to two additional courts. See designs below.

There is a need for additional court/courts to meet the requirements of the Belmont High School tennis program that will utilize the Winn Brook courts for practices and matches. The additional court/courts will also add to the available courts for the public when not being utilized by the High School program.

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
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Passcode: 481165
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Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
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Webinar ID: 874 7479 5595
Passcode: 481165

Positive COVID-19 Case At Belmont High, Second In District Since September

Photo: Belmont High School

The Belmont Health Department reported on Friday, Oct. 9 that a Belmont High School community member – either a student or a staff member – has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Friday’s notice is the second positive individual in the district, joining a Winn Brook Elementary School community member who was diagnosed on Sept. 28.

In an email message sent to the community by Belmont Superintendent John Phelan, Belmont Public School’s director of nursing Beth Rumley, RN, determined that the positive school community member was not present at school during their infectious period. The infectious period used for determining close contacts for COVID-19 is two days prior to becoming symptomatic or, if asymptomatic, two days prior to testing, up until the time the student/staff/teacher is isolated. 

Therefore, no close contacts were identified among the school community in this situation. 

Phelan said the district is taking the following steps:

  • The Health Department and Nursing Director Rumley immediately began case investigations.
  • The district has been planning for this scenario during the reopening planning process and have a comprehensive plan in place.  All of those protocols have been implemented.
  • The student body and staff have been closely adhering to the safety protocols, including mask wearing, hand washing, and physical distancing. 

“We are grateful to our families for their continued efforts to keep students at home at the first sign of symptoms. These measures, taken in combination, greatly reduce the risk of additional transmission,” said Phelan.

Positive COVID Case Detected At Winn Brook

Photo: The Winn Brook Elementary School

A member of the Winn Brook Elementary community tested positive with COVID-19, according to the Belmont Department of Health.

The Health Department confirmed on Monday, Sept. 28 that either a student or staff member at the school located at the corner of Waterhouse Road and Cross Street has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to Belmont Superintendent John Phelan.

“I am grateful for the proactive, swift, and responsive measures that have been taken to ensure the safety of everyone in the Belmont Public Schools community, and I thank you for your partnership,” said Phelan in an email to the district and community

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines, the infectious period for COVID-19 is two days prior to becoming symptomatic or, if asymptomatic, two days prior to testing. Beth Rumley, Belmont Public School’s director of nursing determined the school community member was not present at school during their infectious period. Therefore, no close contacts were identified among the school community in this situation.

Phelan said the district has taken the following steps after the notification:

  • The Belmont Department of Health and Rumley immediately began case investigations.
  • The district has planned for such a scenario during its reopening planning process and have a comprehensive plan in place. All of those protocols have been implemented.
  • To further prevent transmission of the virus to other staff and students, the district sanitized the school with a focus on the areas frequented by the community member that tested positive.
  • The Winn Brook student body and staff that are in school have been closely adhering to the safety protocols, including mask wearing, hand washing, and physical distancing. 

“We are grateful to our families for their continued efforts to keep students at home at the first sign of symptoms.  These measures, taken in combination, greatly reduce the risk of additional transmission.

New Principals Named For Winn Brook, Burbank Elementary

Photo: The Winn Brook Elementary School

Two of Belmont’s four elementary schools will have new principals for the start of the 2020-21 school year starting in September, according to an email from Belmont Superintendent John Phelan.

Anita Mecklenburg, an assistant principal and curriculum director in Norfolk, will become principal of the Winn Brook, and J. Seeley Okie, the interim principal of the Burbank since July, 2019 will take over the position permanently. Both educators will officially start on July 1.

For the past six years, Mecklenburg has been the assistant principal at the H. Olive Day School, a Pre-K to second grade facility, and director of curriculum and instruction in English Language Arts and History and Social Science for Pre-K to 6th grade.

Before her stay in Norfolk, Mecklenburg spent 22 years at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Franklin, 13 years as a first grade teacher. Mecklenburg received her BA in Elementary Education from the University of Iowa and an Master’s degree in organizational management from Endicott College.

A resident of Norfolk, Mecklenburg is a candidate for Norfolk’s Select Board in its upcoming election.

Before coming to Belmont, Okie was an assistant principal at the MacArthur Elementary School in Waltham for seven years. Prior to becoming an administrator, Okie taught third and fourth grade in the Natick Public Schools, the Charles River School in Dover, and the Keys School in Palo Alto, Calif. Okie began his career in education as a K-12 science teacher in the Foothills Academy, Wheatridge, Colo.

Okie earned a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Colby College. He obtained a Master’s Degree in School Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Lesley College.

Winn Brook’s Carey Stepping Down As Principal, Search For Next Leader Underway

Photo: Winn Brook Principal Janet Carey

Janet Carey, Belmont’s longest tenured principal, has announced that she is stepping down from leading the educators at the Winn Brook Elementary School at the end of the 2020 school year.

“Filled with mixed emotions, I am writing to let you know that this will be my final year as principal of the Winn Brook School,” Carey wrote in a letter to parents and students.

“Almost eighteen years ago, I came to Belmont as a novice principal. I have cherished my time here and have grown as a result of it. The journey has been challenging yet fulfilling, exhilarating yet exhausting, and constantly changing while unwavering guided by our core values. If I can credit myself with anything, it is hiring well and keeping children central to all decision making,” she said.

While it may seem early to make this announcement, Carey said principal searches typically start in January.

“As I said to [Belmont] Superintendent [John] Phelan, my priority is to give you time to find the right person to lead your school community, the privilege that I’ve so enjoyed.”

Speaking after Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting, Dec. 10, Phelan said Carey put off her retirement for a year as the district welcomed three new principals in the ’19-’20 school year.

“She’s truly a dedicated educator who was really excited to stay one more year with us.” said Phelan.

Search For Next Principal Now Underway

The district posted the Winn Brook job this past Friday, Dec. 6, as Phelan has reached out to the PTO and the Belmont Education Association asking for volunteers to serve on a search committee made up of two parents, two teachers and several administrators.

Phelan hopes to begin the process in mid-January then “whittle the applicants” from about 20 who make the first cut to four or five who will meet with parents, students, educators and administrators. That group will be cut to two finalists who will be interviewed twice by Phelan and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Janice Darias who will then make an offer to the one they feel will be the best fit for the position.

Phelan said he’d like to hire internal candidates “because we know who they are and their character, their work ethic and we have them as part of our family. In turn, they know our culture and all that adds a value to hiring for leadership positions.”

But unlike the recent search for the next Belmont Police Chief which focused on in-house applicants, “we are not just looking internally or just externally,” said Phelan, who was on the chief’s screening committee.

“We let the process take itself through and find out who the best candidate is and move from there,” he noted, pointing to Chenery Middle School Principal Mike McAllister as an internal applicant who beat out a large pool of outside contenders and Heidi Paisner-Roffman, the Wellington’s new principal who was an external candidate from Wayland who “knocked our socks off.”

“If you’re an internal candidate, you might have a slight edge but you’ve got to prove yourself,” said Phelan.

Burnin’ For Cleo: Saturday’s Boot Camp Honors Athlete​ Memory

Photo: Poster for the event this Saturday.

Join Belmont’s Burnin’ by Ray for an outdoor workout to celebrate the life of Cleo Athena Theodoropulos this Saturday.

The “Best of Boston”-winning gym is hosting a two-hour charity outdoor boot camp at the Winn Brook Elementary School field in Belmont on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. to honor Cleo’s energy, kindness, fierce athletic drive and abundant spirit. 

Tickets are $25 and can be obtained here. All proceeds and donations would benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Cleo, who was an outstanding figure skater and varsity field hockey player, was a junior at Belmont High School who died on April 22, less than one week after her diagnosis with Ewing sarcoma, due to a cancer-induced fatal stroke.

Temporary Field Lights Proposed For Winn Brook, PQ Grounds Heads To Select Board

Photo: (foreground) Charlie Conway, president of Belmont Youth Soccer, at a community meeting on field lights at Winn Brook playground.

After a pair of bruising meetings with skeptical neighbors on Wednesday night, July 24, the Belmont Recreation Commission unanimously approved allowing Belmont Youth Soccer to install temporary field lights at Winn Brook Elementary School and Pequossette (PQ) Field for approximately 10 weeks this fall.

The set of four lights will illuminate a 80 yard by 80-yard area for up to two hours until 8:30 p.m. beginning on the first week of September and lasting until early November as part of a pilot program.

“We will bring this [decision to allow lights until 8:30 p.m. weekdays] to the Select Board with the commission’s approval,” said Jon Marshall, assistant town administrator and Recreation Department director.

The commission did place conditions on the proposed permit that echoed resident’s major concerns by prohibiting diesel-generated lights which neighbors to the field considered too noisy and a potential source of air pollution.

In addition, the commission will suggest the Select Board begin a discussion that would lead to the lights being rotated to other play spaces, Town Field and Grove Street Playground, allowing fields to rest and regenerate the grass playing surfaces.

The lights request by Belmont Youth Soccer is an unintended consequence of the new Belmont Middle and High School, said Charlie Conroy, BYS president, who made the presentation to the committee and public at the Beech Street Center on Wednesday, July 24.

Recreation Commission Chair Anthony Ferrante with member Marsha Semuels responding to residents concerns.

With the school’s long-standing practice fields ripped up as the land is being prepared for construction, high school athletic teams will train on town fields and playgrounds (field hockey will be at Winn Brook, Girls’ Soccer at Grove Street and Boys’ Soccer at PQ) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., dislodging the youth league which has 1,500 players between kindergarten and eighth grade.

The four lights will allow teams of older players, about 40 in 7th and 8th grade, to practice well after dusk. “We will not light up the whole field just a specific part” of the playgrounds,” said Conway.

In addition, said Conway, Youth Soccer is also renting a field at Belmont Day School for $25,000 to supplement the playgrounds already being used this fall.

At both meetings, held consecutively, residents immediately pointed to the impact of diesel-powered lights on the quality of life of the neighborhood.

The fumes from the engines will prevent nearby residents from opening their windows “and that is completely unacceptable,” said Sherman Street’s Linda Matthews, who also pointed to the likelihood of light pollution from their use.

Conway said there are alternatives to diesel generated power sources including solar and electrical. But unlike the diesel machines which can be rented, the alternatives have to be purchased.

“And what we need from the town is a five year commitment to this plan for us to make this investment,” said Conway.

As much as the fumes, residents protested the diesel lights adding “another audio assault,” in the Winn Brook area, said Joanne Adduci of Hoitt Road. “Our chances to sit outside will be gone,” she said from the loud hum of the running motors.

Attendees at both sessions pointed to possible additional traffic, the noise of kids playing past nightfall and the location of the lights along abutters – at PQ it totaled 45 houses and 90 families – homes rather than closer to the center of the grounds.

Rose O’Neil, a Precinct 4 town meeting member from Maple Street adjacent to PQ, said as a member of the Friends of PQ Park, when the playground at the park was being developed this year, lighting was prohibited to prevent constant use.

“There has to be time for the residents … who are not part of league,” said O’Neil, seeking to preserve the park as “a communal place.”

“I love that feel,” she said.

While Conway and members of the commission attempted to reassure the residents that their concerns were being listened to, some in attendance didn’t have the same faith in the responses.

“With all due respect, is this a done deal? Do we get a fair shake,” said a resident.

After the end of the night’s meetings, the commission moved to approve the permit with the conditions against diesel use.

Breaking: Joey’s Park Closed For Month Due To Returning Rodents

Photo: A snapshot of a social media site concerning trash at Joey’s Park.

They’re back!

After a failed attempt to eradicate vermin from their home at Joey’s Park, the Belmont Board of Health and the Highway Division of the Department of Public Works have today, Monday, Feb. 26, closed the popular Winn Brook neighborhood playground for a second time as it attempts to send the rats packing.

The town has hired Assurance Pest Solutions to treat the reemergence of large rat burrows with a deterrent solution dubbed Rat-Out Gel, made of garlic oil and white pepper. The plan is for the irritant to force the rodents into traps at baiting stations in the park. 

While it’s being treated and monitored for the next three to four weeks, the playground will be closed to the public.

This is the second attempt by the town to root out the rats at the park located adjacent to the Winn Brook School. 

The town is urging the public to assist it in keeping the play area clean of food scraps and trash which attract the rodents. In recent weeks, a social media site geared toward parents in Belmont focused on the general level of uncleanliness at the park, including photos of food containers, general garbage, and a soiled diaper.

For more information, contact the Belmont DPW at 617-993-2680 or the Belmont Health Department at 617-993-2720.

Rats Begone! Joey’s Park Reopened; Town Asks Patrons To Carry Out Trash/Food

Photo: Joey’s Park, certified rat free.

After being closed for nearly a month due to an infestation of rats, Joey’s Park will reopen Wednesday, Nov. 22 – just in time for the Thanksgiving Holiday – to the public after the “rodent problem” has been resolved, according to a press release from the Belmont Department of Health.

The play structure adjacent to the Winn Brook Elementary School on Cross Street has been off-limits to the public since mid-October when the Belmont Department of Public Works and the Health Department discovered rats nesting in and around the facility. The town contracted Assurance Pest Solutions, a professional pest control operator to both investigate and treat the infestation using a non-chemical irritant to force the rodents out of the area.

“We are pleased to inform you that the rodent problem has been safely resolved at Joey’s Park and the park is again open for Belmont residents and the general public to enjoy!” read the press release.

To help prevent future rodent infestations at Joey’s Park, the Health Department is encouraging those using the park “to carry in/carry out any food, drinks, and trash items, which may attract nuisance wildlife to the area.”