With State’s Guidance In Hand, Belmont Schools Writing An Opening Day Scenario

Photo: The cover page of the Massachusetts DESE guide to reopening public schools in September.

With guidance from the state now in hand, the Belmont School District is beginning in earnest to put together a blueprint for opening the school year in less than two months.

But no one should believe this will be an easy process in a world dominated by COVID-19.

“This will be unlike any September that school systems have ever faced with trying to open school under a pandemic,” said School Superintendent John Phelan at a virtual Zoom meeting of the Belmont School Committee recently.

Belmont joins districts and systems across the country determine the optimum playbook to follow in the coming school year, as “families are ready to fall into that familiar ‘back to school’ routine where parents go back to work and students are in front of teaching and developing their own social emotional growth and development,” said Phelan.

The district with guidance from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is currently creating three learning options for educating students in the 2020-1 school year:

  • a traditional in-school model,
  • the hybrid system which students participate both in class and learn from home, and
  • an on-line remote setup similar to the final weeks of the previous school year.

For Phelan, it doesn’t appear Belmont will be picking one option and sticking with it for for the 2020-1 school year.

“It is our potential expectation that next school year we could run the range of having all three of those option be put in play,” said Phelan, attempting to service the district’s pupils well “but also with safety in mind.”

One of the first things principals, educators and staff are doing during this feasibility phase is measuring every available inch of space in the district’s six schools to determine how many students can be safely taught in each building which will decide which option(s) the district will use to educate its approximate 5,000 students beginning Sept. 2.

“We will set up a schedule where we could try to limit contact between students,” said Phelan as the schools prioritize in-person learning.

The answer is far from certain. “Can it be done with existing staff, do we need more space, will extra buses be needed, can students pass safely between classes, where will lunch take place?”

“Are our class sizes just too big with 26 students in a classroom and still keep the minimum separation in social distancing?” said Phelan.

As the traditional opening is being tested, the district will also provide a more detailed blueprint on a hybrid option with a remote learning portion.

After the three models are completed in the next weeks, the district will return to the state “the data with our assessment” of the options, showing DESE the challenges and pointing out the resources the schools will need to mitigate those challenges” as well as demonstrating the situations that can’t be resolved.

An example is that a teacher with 29-33 students can not run a class under the regulations imposed by the state. “[the class] would need to be split up and a teacher brought in. if not that’s an un-achievable challenge,” said Phelan.

The Superintendent revealed that the state said ‘out loud’ there could be dollars for each district to find added classroom space and to purchase equipment so each student can be equip with computer for hybrid or remote learning.

But Phelan said he found it “concerning” that funds can not be used to add personnel to assist in educating students.

Cushing Square Paving Set For Thursday, July 16; Seek Alternative Routes

Photo: The Bradford in Cushing Square.

As the construction of the Bradford, the Toll Brothers Apartment Living project in Cushing Square nears completion, the developer is finishing the restoration of the roads this week.

On Thursday, July 16, paving will occur on the following locations:

  • Trapelo Road, from Williston Road to the main intersection at Common Street;
  • Common Street, from Trapelo Road to Belmont Street; and
  • The main intersection up to the crosswalk at the gas station at Common Street and Trapelo Road.

Appropriate signage will be in place, but the work will definitely impact traffic flow.

Toll Brothers’ Contact person is Steve Iacaboni and he can be reached at 978-870-0603.

New MBTA Hybrid Buses Arrive In Belmont Center With New Stops

Photo: A new hybrid Xcelsior MBTA bus in Belmont Center

In the past two weeks, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has introduced its new fleet of hybrid buses on routes coming into Belmont. And as a result, long-standing stops in Belmont Center has been replaced due to the size of the new vehicles.

The new Xcelsior manufactured by New Flyer of America brings a better ride for commuters with greater fuel efficiency, according to the MBTA. But due to its higher profile, the buses could not pass through the tunnel over the Belmont Center commuter rail station.

The result has been a new stop impacting routes 75 and 74. are now on Concord Avenue adjacent to the First Church in Belmont, Unitarian Universalist.

The new route from Cambridge requires the buses to continue on Concord Avenue rather than make a right-hand turn through the tunnel, loop around the WWI Memorial, and take a left onto Common Street and back towards Cambridge.

It’s Back: Annual West Nile Virus Confirmed in Mosquitos from Belmont

Photo: The West Nile virus is back once again. (Image by mika mamy from Pixabay

In what has become an annual summer resurgence, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced last week that the West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitos recently collected from Belmont.

WNV is most commonly transmitted to humans by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus. While WNV can infect people of all ages; people over 50 are at higher risk for severe infection.

There are a few precautions people can do to help to protect themselves and their families:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Be aware of peak mosquito hours: The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.Otherwise, take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing.
  • Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. Although it may be difficult to do when it’s hot,wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away fromyour skin.
  • Apply insect repellent when you go outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3,8- diol (PMD)] according to the instructions on the product label.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain Standing Water: Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of placesaround your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or getting rid of items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Make sure rain barrels are covered or screened. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or Repair Screens: Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Information about WNV and reports of WNV activity in Massachusetts during 2020 can be found on the MDPH website at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-arbovirus-daily-update

Community Meeting Thursday, July 9, For Pleasant St. Pot Shop

Photo: A Mint retail facility in Tempe, AZ

A proposed retail marijuana establishment is holding a virtual public meeting on Thursday, July 9 to allow residents to ask questions of the venture located on Pleasant Street.

Arizona-based Mint Retail Facilities, a firm described as “an industry leader in the blossoming cannabis industry,” is holding the community outreach meeting at 6 p.m. on Zoom or via a dial-in connection. The Mensing Group, a cannabis advisory firm, will be hosting the meeting.

Join Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84593553591 (ID: 845 9355 3591)

Dial In: 646-558-8656 then enter the ID 845 9355 3591

The proposed pot shop will be located at 768 Pleasant St. in a one-story building constructed where Lenny’s Service Center is currently operating, adjacent to My Other Kitchen and Auto Engineering Body Work and Cityside Subaru.

A second community meeting will be held in September.

Belmont Street Undergoes Restoration, July 6-10

Photo: Map of Belmont Street to be restored next week

Approximately third-quarters of a mile of Belmont Street will be under construction beginning Monday, July 6 to restore the roadway which was dug up late last year.

Bannon Paving of Hyde Park will be grinding and overlaying this large second on Belmont Street from the Watertown line on Lexington Street to Common Street for the entire week from July 6 to July 10.

The work will repair the street impacted by the installation of new PVC gas-main installed by National Grid/Feeney Brothers late last construction season to connect the new Toll Brothers development in Cushing Square.

Belmont Farmers Market, July 2: Load Up For The Fourth

Photo: Belmont Farmers Market

It is another great Market Day – sunny and toasty – in Belmont as the Farmers’ Market is open in the Claflin Street parking lot in the rear of Belmont Center.

The market is open from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes have been made to shopping run the market include social distancing, preordering when possible, masks and hand washing. We have a one-way path through a larger Market area. We have eliminated social events to reduce crowding. Read our Covid-19 safety rules for you, for us, and for the vendors.

Read all of    our pandemic safety rules
Read all of our pandemic safety rules

Food assistance We match government benefits to help all families take home great, local food: SNAP (Food Stamps), P-EBT (for school-aged children during the pandemic), FMNP (for moms & babies, and for seniors). Most of our produce vendors accept HIP, which adds free produce for SNAP recipients.

This week’s vendors include:

C&M Farm
Dick’s Market Garden

• Hutchins Farm
• Neighbor’s Acre microgreens
• Joyberry Farm mushrooms

Meat, fish & dairy
• Lilac Hedge Farm
• Hooked Fish Shop w/Red’s Best fish & Boston Smoked Fish

Bread, pastry & sweets
• Mariposa Bakery pastries & bread.

Prepared foods
• Tex Mex Eats tamales.

And more
• A Seasoned Chef Spice Blends
• House Bear Brewing
• Flores de Cafe