17 Students From Belmont High And Belmont Hill Named National Merit Semifinalists

Photo: 17 National Merit semifinalists in Belmont

Fourteen Belmont High School students and three who attend The Belmont Hill school were named semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation during a presentation on Sept. 9.

At the beginning of each school year, the Evanston, Ill-based NMSC reveals the students who will go on to compete for scholarships in the spring. Approximately 7,600 of the 16,000 semifinalists will win scholarships for 2021.

According to NMSC, semifinalists are determined by the results of pre-SAT tests taken by about 1.5 million high school juniors nationwide during the previous school year. Semifinalists are the highest scorers in each of the 50 states and represent fewer than one percent of each state’s high school seniors. 

Those students named finalists will then apply to obtain scholarships up to $2,500.

The Belmont semifinalists are:

Belmont High School

  • Isabel T. Burger
  • Katarina L. Chen
  • Charlotte E. Conroy
  • Alexander W. Fick
  • Sarah A. Firth
  • David A. Jen
  • Edward P. Lee
  • Alicia A. Lugovskoy
  • William J. Mann
  • Timothy J. Minicozzi
  • Jessica D. Peng
  • Jason Tang
  • Howell Xia
  • Yao Xiao

The Belmont Hill School

  • Aaron W. Belluck
  • Sreetej Digumarthi
  • Max D. Hall

Belmont Police Officers Increasingly Targeted With Verbal Abuse From The Public

Photo: Belmont Police officers are coming under increasing abuse from some in the public

In the past few months, Belmont Police officers have been receiving an increasing amount of verbal abuse from some members of the public, according to Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac in a report to the Select Board.

Officers report they often receive the “middle finger” or people yell “something derogatory at them on a weekly basis,” said MacIsaac.

In one of the most blatant incidents, almost daily a person driving along Concord Avenue stops, or slows down, at the detail officer and shouts “F–k you, murderer!” or “ACAB” which, according to Board Chair Roy Epstein, “stands for something you can look up … because it’s not a nice term.”

Additionally, anti-police graffiti has been tagged in town with the aforementioned “ACAB” that was recently painted on the underpass of the commuter rail bridge at Belmont Center.

And in one case, the abuse turned physical, according to MacIsaac. On Friday afternoon, Sept. 11, a patrol sergeant responding to an emergency call was driving on Waverley when somebody threw a full cup of coffee across his windshield.

While Belmont Police have experienced the occasional incident by a member of the public, rarely has it been sustained over time and committed by several people.

The reaction from the Select Board was one of dismay that members of the community would attack public safety officers.

“I’m astonished that you think behavior like that is appropriate for a police force that is highly professional, highly courteous, and does a great job,” said Epstein.

“I understand that there is a lot of protest going on nationwide. But I think we need to make sure that we continue to treat the officers in Belmont with the appropriate level of courtesy and respect for the professional job that they deliver to the community,” said Tom Caputo of the Board.

Select Board Member Adam Dash pointed out that MacIsaac and the department have been very supportive of all those police reforms, including when in June high school students held a rally for Black Lives Matters.

“To lash out at them over something like that, it was just barking the wrong tree entirely,” said Dash.

Epstein believed that most Belmontians are supportive of the department and should take the time to demonstrate that fact.

“I would ask is for other members of the public, is when you go by a police officer, maybe you can slow down and say something nice to them, and show that they’re actually appreciated,” said Epstein.

Belmont Records Single Positive COVID-19 Case In Past 14 Days; No New Deaths In 15 Weeks

Photo: COVID-19 update as of Sept. 11

As of Friday, Sept. 11, Belmont has 254 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of a single positive case over the past 14 days.

Due to the new case count over the past two weeks, this moves Belmont down into the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s gray zone (less than five cases reported in the last two weeks) based on the average daily case rate.

The total of 60 COVID-19 related deaths in Belmont – 57 of which are confirmed by filed death certificates with the Town Clerk’s Office and 3 are unconfirmed – has held steady for the past 15 weeks, from late in May.

The MDPH continues to provide weekly reports of COVID-19 data by city or town as part of its Dashboard for COVID-19 Cases, Quarantine and Monitoring.  MDPH updates this list once a week on Wednesdays.  

Updated COVID-19 Data Visualizations

For updated Belmont CIVID-19 data visualizations including information on age, sex, race, and percent testing positive, please see the attached document, or view the Aug. 21 update which can be found here: https://www.belmont-ma.gov/home/urgent-alerts/covid-19-information-for-the-town-of-belmont-find-all-updates-here

Opinion: An Open Letter To School Committee On Delaying A Vote On Proposed Hybrid Learning Option

Photo: Wait on voting for a hybrid model

To Andrea Prestwich, Chair, Belmont School Committee

I understand the Belmont School Committee needs to ratify the Belmont Public School’s remote learning plan in some form or fashion before school starts. Prior to voting, I would urge you and the other members of the committee to address the following aspects of the proposed Remote Learning plan in a clear and concise manner:

1) There has been no clear and precise estimate given by the BPS for the amount and types of family support that will be required for students at different levels to be successful in remote learning, nor has there been any assessment that I am aware of that gauges the degree to which the required and expected levels of support are feasible for families at the outset of this Phase or sustainable for any duration of time.

2)  There has been no clear and compelling rationale that has been offered to explain why start times can’t be later in remote learning. Belmont Schools Superintendent John Phelan has spoken a few times to the complexities of transportation, but as far as I’m aware there are no transportation issues during Phase 1 and very few parents and caregivers representing less than 500 out of 4,000 students indicated an interest in or reliance on bus transportation when asked. One of your core campaign issues when you originally ran for BSC was for a later start time. If we are ever going to explore and experiment with later start times, which the vast majority of families and students support, this would appear to be the moment. If we are not going to start later, especially at Chenery Middle School, I would expect that the particulars of why we cannot do so would need to be presented to the committee and the public before a vote on the remote schedule.

3) There has been no clear and compelling reason for why lunch schedules can’t be adjusted to accommodate family lunch at the same time both within Chenery and across school levels. Doing so would be the most convenient thing for families and would be best for the social-emotional wellbeing of students and families during Phase 1.

All of these issues relate in some form or fashion to the degree of responsiveness of the BPS and BSC to core concerns of and feedback from Belmont families, especially given the shift in the degree of responsibility for students’ education that families will bear in Phase 1 and all of the proposed phases until full in-person learning resumes.

Regarding the proposed hybrid plan, I strongly oppose and do not understand the idea that we need to rush to a vote next week given that the proposed hybrid plan, which is radically different from all previous models of hybrid learning that have been presented to the BSC and the public, has not been properly vetted by the public nor the BSC and given that hybrid learning is not likely to start in whatever form it takes until October at the earliest. 

To understand this issue more deeply from the perspective of Belmont parents and caregivers, it is useful to review the timeline of the process of exploring hybrid models so far:

  • June 29: of the 900 survey respondents, only 42 percent of respondents indicated support for a hybrid when the idea of the hybrid model was fairly abstract and when families might have conceived of the question as being in distinction to the possibility of a full in-person return to school.
  • July 16: though the total number of survey respondents is not clear from the slide deck from the BSC meeting, only 9 percent of families preferred full remote learning; 91 percent of respondents preferred full in-person learning or hybrid.
  • Aug. 4:  Superintendent Phelan presented 7 hybrid models to the public, all of which have significantly more in-person learning opportunities for students than the current proposed hybrid plan, which offers far fewer in-person options for many fewer students.
  • Aug. 6: the current “Return to Learning” phased plan is reviewed for the first time, marking a sudden and significant reversal in the direction of the public discussion about options for returning to school without a very clear rationale for why we are moving in this direction.
  • Aug. 11: at a BSC presentation representing the perspectives of approximately 3,000 of the 4,000 Belmont Public School students and the last time families were invited to express a point of view about hybrid learning, there was overwhelming support (2,138 of 3,152) for more and more frequent in-person learning opportunities (hybrid + full in-person) than is currently proposed.
  • Sept. 2: the current proposed hybrid models are presented to the public for the first time along with information about the “remote-only” option; the proposed models for students allow for significantly less in-person learning (2-3 mornings a week for most students) than had been previously discussed, not in keeping with expectations of families. In addition, the concept of a “Bridge” phase (“Phase 1.5”) is introduced for the first time to BSC but not voted upon.
  • Sept. 3: a survey is distributed to BPS families to choose between the current proposed hybrid model and the proposed remote model with the expectation that families will choose by Sept. 17 between these two models, neither of which approximates families’ expectations or resembles previous hybrid models under consideration. The survey does not contain a “none of the above” option or an option to indicate support for a different hybrid model if one would be available.  In the meantime, families are asked to articulate questions they have about the proposed models vs. feedback and there is a precipitous drop in family engagement as represented by the steep decline in the number of families who respond to surveys.

I would submit to you and other members of the committee that neither you nor Belmont families have had the opportunity to vet properly the details of the proposed hybrid model such that families would have a basis for making a choice on the one hand and that you would be informed enough about the perspectives of families on the other to vote next week.  Indeed, I would go further and say that, notwithstanding the very real need that the BPS has to engage in staffing projections, families should not have been asked to indicate a “choice” between two models they mostly do not want without further examination by BSC and BPS of whether adjustments can be made to the proposed hybrid model that would be in keeping our recently agreed-upon metrics for each Phase and more aligned with what families want and expect for their children.

Under those circumstances, I urge you to delay a vote of the hybrid model, to encourage BPS leadership to add more in-person learning opportunities whenever we move to Phase 3 and to extend the deadline for families to submit their preference sheets until modifications to the hybrid model can be more fully explored and articulated.  

Jeff Liberty

Worcester Street

Outdoor Flu Clinic: Friday, Sept. 18; 10AM To Noon At Beech Street Center

Photo: CVS is sponsoring a flu clinic on Friday

The Belmont Council on Aging is thanking CVS Pharmacy in Belmont for offering to sponsor an outdoor flu clinic on Friday, Sept. 18; 10 a.m. to Noon at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.

This clinic is open to anyone over the age of 8 in the community. Pre-registration will be required. Contact Dana Leavitt at 617-993-2977 with any questions. Please register by Wednesday, Sept. 16. 

High dose vaccines will be available. You must wear a mask, appropriate clothing for easy access to the upper arm, and have your prescription insurance (Medicare d) and Medicare b cards available. 

Pneumonia shots are available as well. To determine which pneumonia shot you need, please first contact your PCP.

Flu Shots for Those Without Insurance, or who are Underinsured

The Belmont Health Department will again be offering flu shots for those who are under or uninsured this year. The Health Department hopes to receive its supply of flu vaccines by early October. The Health Department website will be updated with information on this, and these vaccines will be given by appointment once we receive them. 

Please call the Health Department at 617-993-2720 if you are interested, have any questions about this service, or for further information. 

Opinion: It’s Time To Move On From Columbus

Photo: Welcoming Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Some have called it a “white supremacist’s holiday.” For others, it’s a reminder of the atrocities and genocide that took place on this land about 500 years ago. Let us stop celebrating violence, and move to celebrate the diverse and culturally rich native peoples by renaming the holiday on the second Monday of October to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Follow this link to our Change.org petition.

On the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival to the Americas, Berkeley, California, declared Oct. 12 to be a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People.” As such, Berkeley officially became the first municipality to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Since then, at least 10 states and 130 cities have made the transition as well. Our neighbors in Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, and Marblehead have moved forward. If we want Belmont to live up to its promises of inclusivity and progressiveness, it only makes sense that we follow the footsteps of our neighbors and rename the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

For more than 500 years, indigenous peoples have been oppressed by European settlers. This began with Columbus. Upon his arrival to the Bahamas – he never stepped foot on the continental US – Columbus infringed on the territory of millions of indigenous people, especially that of the Taino people, whom he shortly enslaved. Hundreds were sent back to Spain while thousands of others were forced to scavenge the land for gold. He mutilated the Tainos who didn’t fulfill their quota of gold. He sent dismembered Taino bodies through the streets to assert his superiority. Michele de Cuneo, one of Columbus’ royal companions, wrote in his journal about how Columbus raped and tortured a Taino woman. It is much unsaid about what Columbus did to the Taino people, but these few examples give the essence of his disgusting treatment of them. 

We would also add that his actions didn’t impact only the Taino people. His arrival to the Americas began the Columbian Exchange, which brought the irreversible impact of diseases like smallpox to the indigenous people. An estimated 90 percent of Aboriginal Americans died of smallpox. Altogether, his actions set into motion what would become a mass genocide of the indigenous people of the Americas. 

Early on, students learn of Columbus as a great hero and the discoverer of America; the reason for where we are today. But celebrating him as a hero misses the point. He did not discover the Americas; he merely stole them. It also leaves out a far more important half of the story. Celebrating him serves as a reminder of how he took away the land and lives of countless native people. And while it is important to acknowledge his mistreatment of natives, we must not honor violence. By celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we can honor the traditions and culture of the indigenous peoples of America, instead of a merciless outsider. 

After a year of consideration and planning, we have launched a town-wide petition to rename the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We ask that you share it with anybody who supports the change so that our town government officials can see the interest our community has in taking such an action.

Alex Fick

Lora Ovcharova

Fall Sports: Modified Rules, Modified Fees As Seasons To Start By Month’s End

Photo: Belmont High Field Hockey will be playing this fall

There will be a fall sports season for Belmont High School student athletes as the Belmont School Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday night, Sept. 8, to approve an agreement by the Middlesex League which Belmont is a member on rules and safety.

With each sport – field hockey, golf, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country – having to undergo a number of modifications to limit contact and potentially unhealthy actions on the field, the School Committee modified the participation fee each players pays.

“We are entering into a very unique school year, not only academically Burt for our student athletes,” said Jim Davis, Belmont’s athletic director, who told the committee the fee will be cut by $150 to $300 due in not small part to the major changes each sport will undo.

For example, heading the ball in soccer is disallowed, penalty corners will be discontinued in field hockey and cross country will likely be a timed race rather than the traditional group event. In addition, sport teams will be playing a third of the usually number of games in recent season and there will be no post-season tournament.

Davis said he, Belmont Superintendent John Phelan and the high school coaches reviewed the modifications and the potential impact on each sport “and that’s why we are moving forward with the ask this evening to bring those sports … back into our school and allowing our student athletes the opportunity to compare in those activities.”

While the cut in the fees will reduce revenue from athletic activities to an estimated $86,000, expenses due to less games and personnel will fall to $98,000 for the fall sports season. Phelan said that an $11,000 deficit would have been seen as reasonable when the district was initially forecasting the impact on the bottom line.

The Middlesex agreement – which is following guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the high school’s governing body the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association – is providing guidelines on pre-workout and pre-contest screening, social distancing in practices, and protocols for equipment use, hydration and the cleaning of gym bags.

There are also measures to increase physical distancing – keeping players six feet apart for the majority of games and practices – and incorporating protective equipment to reduce the spread of respiratory particles.

Under the agreement approved, fall sports in the Middlesex League will start Monday Sept. 21. Golf will kick off the season during the week of Sept. 28.

Sports will have three teams – varsity, junior varsity and freshmen – limited to 25 participants. Due to restrictions on the number of students on buses, away games will be restricted to 22 players. There will be three varsity and two sub-varsity practices each week.

Field hockey and boys and girls soccer will play 10 games on Saturdays through October and November including Columbus Day and Veteran Day. Belmont teams will play the five opponents in the Middlesex Liberty division on back to back Saturdays, home and away. The season for these sports will start Oct. 3. Games postponed will not be rescheduled.

Cross country will have five dual meets over this time.

Spectators will be limited to one per player who will be provided a season badge. Face masks will be mandatory at each contest.

The School Committee is continuing to discuss if athletes will be reimbursed their participation fee if a sports season is cancelled due to health concerns including a spike in COVID-19 infection rates. That debate will be voted before the season begins next week.

Letter To The Editor: Claims Belmont Overtax Property Below $1 Million ‘Untrue And Misleading’ – Assessors

Photo: The Assessors before the Select Board (from left) Martin Millane, Robert Reardon and Charles Laverty III

Dear Editor:

The Town of Belmont Board of Assessors has recently received information being circulated by a group calling themselves the “Citizens for a Fiscally Responsible Belmont” in which it is claimed that the Fiscal Year 2020 Assessments overtax properties under $1,000,000 in assessed value and under tax higher-end properties. The information used to make these claims is untrue and misleading and does not adhere to the actual assessment process which is regulated, reviewed, audited, and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue on an annual basis. The Board of Assessors has a long and exemplary record of fairly and equitably administering the Massachusetts General Laws to all taxpayers of Belmont.

Current assessments are historical which is a requirement of Massachusetts General Laws.  The Fiscal Year 2020 (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020) assessments are based on an effective date of 01/01/2019 based on sales information that occurred during the calendar year 2018. The effective date of assessment is based on the information on file in the assessing office based on inspections and reviews of every property in town.  Therefore, the fiscal year 2020 assessed values are as of Jan. 1, 2019, and are do not reflect the value of a property today.   

The report being circulated uses sales that have occurred in Calendar Years 2019 and 2020 compared against assessments that were based on 2018 sales.  The activity in these years is the basis for the upcoming assessments in the Fiscal Year 2021 (effective this upcoming January) and Fiscal Year 2022. Additionally, the sales in the report show no adjustment for changes in the Belmont Market and there are no adjustments for changes made to the properties after Jan. 1, 2019 (permits and renovations).  

The following table is from one of the many reports required and reviewed by the Department of Revenue to obtain certification.  

Fiscal Year 2020 Sales Ratios

Sale RangeSales RatioCODNumber
Q1$674,000 to $975,0000.951.8935 Sales
Q2$980,000 to $1,202,0000.951.4835 Sales
Q3 $1,206,000 to $1,512,5000.951.2735 Sales
Q4$1,515,000 to $5,500,0000.951.2434 Sales

The sales are segmented into four quartiles by sales price. The next column, sales ratio, is the assessed value divided by the sales price, which results in the assessment level. The Commonwealth requires that assessments are within 90 percent to 110 percent of sales. All four quartiles are at 95 percent which infers that than assessments are at 95 percent of market value in Fiscal Year 2020. The COD column is a further statistical test known as Coefficient of Dispersion which weighs, in short, the quality of the data set.  The Commonwealth requires that this be less the 10. The Belmont assessments are under 2.  The last column is the number of sales analyzed in each quartile. 

It is important to note that the Department of Revenue sets all guidelines and regulations for assessing in the Commonwealth. All communities are required to adhere to the same rules and procedures and Assessors are under oath to uphold these practices.    

A full version of the report above, as well as other reports used in the Certification Process, are available on the Belmont Board of Assessors’ website.

The Belmont Board of Assessors

Robert Reardon; chair, Charles Laverty III; vice-chair, Martin Millane; secretary.

Register Now For the FBE Apple Run 5K Or The 2K Or Both

Photo: Poster on the fence outside Harris Field where the race starts and finishes.

In spite of COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Foundation for Belmont Education Apple Run 5K/2K will be run this year … with a bit of a different setup.

Unlike past years where all the runners would take off at the same time and place on Harris Field, this year each runner will run the same course but all at different times.

With 2020 being a virtual event, the races will be run during a window that opens on Oct. 2 and closes at the end of the day on Oct. 12.

  • Participants who wish to be eligible for prizes must run the Apple Run 5K or 2K routes during that 10-day window. Participants submit a GPS file or link from Garmin, Strava or other fitness trackers for verification.
  • Participants who do not wish to be considered for a prize can run any 5K or 2K route during that period.
  • The 5K course can be found here and the 2K course here. During October 2-12, to submit your times and/or photo, click here.

The Foundation will place signs at the start/finish line as well as the standard course markers. Further, we plan to have a finish line and photo area set up at the track to help support running the race on your own time.


As in past years, the Foundation welcomes team registrations for the 5K run. As well as the prizes above, participants in a team are eligible to win:

  • Fastest Team 5K *
  • Largest Team 5K

*   Fastest combined time for top 5 team members for male, female, and mixed (mixed must contain at least 2 females). 

How running as a team virtually can work:

  • Run together as a family team
  • Run together as a grouping of individuals who have been quarantining together
  • Members of virtual teams consisting of individuals who have NOT been quarantining together should run the race individually, but register under the same team name.
  • The Racewire platform will compile team results and standings from individuals who designate they are members of a given team.


A virtual event creates the opportunities to have some fun with awards and results. For the 2020 Virtual Apple Run awards will be granted in the following categories, with prizes delivered to the winner’s address or sent via mail.

  • Fastest Male and Female 5K
  • Fastest Male and Female Combined (5K + 2K)
  • Fastest Male and Female 5K – 12 and Under
  • Fastest Male and Female 2K – 12 and Under
  • Fastest Couch-2-5K participant*
  • Slowest 5K
  • Fastest Reverse 5K (run the course in reverse)
  • Most Times Run the 5K Course
  • Most Festive Running Outfit: Male and Female
  • Best Finish Line Photo

Please note, we will not have police or public safety monitors on the course. The Foundation for Belmont Education urges participants to follow all rules for social distancing and to beware of street traffic when running the course.

The Foundation is thankful that amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we can continue to support our town’s public schools and students through our annual fall events.

For more information about the Foundation for Belmont Education and the Apple Run, please visit its website at www.fbe-belmont.org/run. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Schools Could Enter Hybrid A Month Earlier After District Hears From Parents

Photo: An update for the hybrid phase.

Saying they heard the concerns of parents, the Belmont School District has moved up by nearly a month the earliest date district schools can begin the hybrid phase.

In an update to the district’s “Return-to-Learning Fall 2020” blueprint during the Belmont School Committee meeting on Sept. 3., the district has added an additional 5th phase – dubbed 1.5 – as “a bridge to hybid” to allow “our youngest learners to meet with the peer … and to get time with their teachers,” explained John Phelan, superintendent of Belmont schools.

Phelan told the committee the most asked questions from parents was “Can we get to the hybrid phase sooner?” The guardians of elementary students also spoke urgently on the need for younger pupils “to be with their teachers.” Phelan said that the inclusion of the new phase will accomplish both goals.

In the new phase (squeezed in-between remote phases 1 and 2), approximately 1,900 Kindergarten to fourth-grade students will be divided into two groups – or cohorts – and each will meet their teachers and fellow students for two hours on a Tuesday and Thursday.

With Phase 1.5, “we could get students in quicker” into the hybrid phase, said Phelan, as the K-4 students will have had modified in-person learning and will allow all students to move into Phase 3.

Under this new guideline, the transition time between the phases will be shortened from three weeks to two and cutting two weeks from the previous “earliest” hybrid starting date of Nov. 9 to now Oct. 26.

But as Phelan has stated previous, any change between phases will depend on a pair of metrics that the School Committee agreed to last week.

Phelan said of the pair of metrics the district will use to determine when to move between phases, “we can check off” the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s recorded two-week community infection rate that is currently registering below 1 percent in Belmont which places the community in the “green” zone which allows for a move between phases.

The second benchmark, the air exchange study, is currently underway and the results will be released at the end of the coming week on Sept. 11. and go before the school committee for review the next week.

Also during the meeting, the principals from the elementary, middle school and high schools introduced the hybrid learning plans for their schools.