Belmont District Closed For Remainder of School Year; Superintendent: Answers To Questions Coming ASAP

Photo: Belmont School Administration Building

Belmont’s approximately 5,000 public school students will be finishing the 2019-2020 school year learning from home as Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday, April 21, that school buildings will be closed for the remainder of the school year and remote learning will continue for the remainder of the academic calendar.

In his press conference, Baker said the state was very much in the grips of a pandemic and “[w]e believe students, therefore, cannot safely return to school and avoid the risk of transmitting this virus to others.”

“It’s the right thing to do, considering the facts on the ground associated with the COVID 19 pandemic,” he said.

Responding to Baker’s remarks, Belmont School District Superintendent John Phelan said: “Given this new information and updated status, the district will continue our remote learning plan as we continue to learn the strengths and growth areas in our current program.”

“The extension of the school closure will come with many questions, and we will continue to work collaboratively with our educators and School Committee to provide you with those answers as soon as possible,” said Phelan.

Belmont School’s Remote Learning To Begin This Week, Lasting Until May 4

Photo: A photo of Belmont Superintendent John Phelan via the internet.

Assignments, reading and a “regular” school day.

Those are the highlights of the new way of education as Belmont School District begins this week “Phase 2 Remote Learning” for the nearly 5,000 students enrolled in the town’s public schools.

The change to learning through the internet and email, which will run until May 4, is another way the COVID-19 novel coronavirus has fundamentally altered the norm.

In an email dated March 30 to the community, John Phelan, Belmont district superintendent, provided a timeline for the next month detailing the approach Phelan and the district leadership team, made up of principals, teachers and directors, are taking in creating an off-campus curriculum for K-12 following the guidelines from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The “Phase 2” will emphasize “reinforcing skills, curriculum advancement, and new and meaningful learning opportunities [in] remote learning,” wrote Phelan.

The timeline for Phase 2 is:

  • On Tuesday, March 31, Belmont’s six school principals will hold faculty meetings to outline the framework of Phase 2 Remote Learning.
  • Those specific details will be emailed by the principals to families on Tuesday, March 31 following the faculty meetings.
  • Principals will set times for staff to access their school and classrooms to gather needed materials during the remainder of the week.
  • Educators will spend time working to review, plan, and prepare for this work with the goal of contacting students and families starting this week and no later than Monday, April 6.
  • The enrichment and re-teaching work “Phase 1” provided students and families for this week should remain in place unless your students/teacher(s) are prepared to move forward with the Phase 2 plan.

The timeline for Phase 2 will be in effect at least until May 4.

Unlike Phase 1 which was student-led reteaching and enrichment of what was learned during the school year, Phase 2 will be teacher-directed with pupils will be expected to spend at least three hours a day working on the reinforcing skills and new and meaningful remote learning opportunities.

Under Phase 2, students in 5th to 12th grade will:

  • Complete and submit work within a set deadline.
  • Open and address daily morning emails from educators.
  • Read for an hour a day.

Younger students, from K-4, will:

  • Engage in daily activities that their families will receive daily via email.
  • Read for a half-hour a day.

Teachers will be tasked with doing what they have been previously, just doing it through the internet. Those tasks include being an instructor and facilitator, collecting and grading assignments, creating resources for students, and even hold “office hours” to allow for a more personal “human touch.”

For more about Phase 2, head to the Belmont Public School link.

Phelan also apologized for the delay in communicating how the remote learning process was being developed and implemented.

“I take responsibility for the role of communicating the hard work we have engaged in over the last week, in order to provide a more direct form of Remote Learning in Belmont,” he said.

Moving forward, Phelan said the district is meeting the challenge the community is facing.

“The community of Belmont has always been a great supporter of public schools. This support has always been valued and appreciated by the faculty and staff in Belmont. Please know that your teachers, directors, and principals have been working hard and will continue to do so on behalf of their students,” said Phelan.

School Precaution: Staffer Who Self-Quarantined Back To Work, Trips Cancelled, And Disinfecting Schools

Photo: Belmont Public School Administration Building.

The byword for the Belmont School District on the expanding coronavirus epidemic is caution.

A female staffer who self-quarantined on Wednesday after returning from a conference in Italy over February break will return to work on Monday, March 9, according to an email from the Belmont School District.

Italy has by far the most cases of the coronavirus in Europe with nearly 4,000 cases and 148 deaths as of Friday, March 6.

Belmont School District Superintendent John Phelan said the staff member, who works at the Chenery Middle School and Belmont High School, placed herself in seclusion on March 4 after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its guidance that day asking people to self-quarantine if they have travelled to China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea.

“Once the CDC guidance was updated Wednesday, the staff member who had travelled to Italy self-quarantined, despite the fact there are no symptoms of illness showing,” said Phelan.

“Given this staff member’s return from Italy was on Sunday, February 23, the staff member will return to work on Monday, March 9, as this will represent the expiration of the two week quarantine period,” noted Phelan.

Belmont is just one of several eastern Massachusetts school districts in which educators and staffers have self-quarantined, including Watertown and Beverly.

Belmont High School students were informed this past week that planned school trips during the April break to Spain and China have been cancelled due to the virus. Spain has about 260 cases and 3 deaths while China has been the epicenter of the virus with nearly 81,000 with the virus and 3,045 deaths.

As Belmont schools are where the largest concentration of people congregate during the work week, the district have begun disinfecting and sanitizing high-touch surfaces in the district’s six schools with hospital-grade equipment.

“As you know this is the season for the common flu and our efforts will help reduce the spread of a number of problematic pathogens,” said Phelan.

Earlier this week, Belmont Health Director Wesley Chin said there was a low risk of Belmont residents catching the virus.

First Winter Storm Brings Snow, Rain Through Tuesday; Schools Still Open Monday

Photo: A snowy return from the Thanksgiving break.

Monday and Tuesday’s morning commutes will be trying for commuters and students as Belmont prepares for the first winter storm of the season which begins late Sunday evening, Dec. 1.

Belmont is under a Winter Storm Warning which will last until 7 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3. Belmont currently lies on the line of 6 to 8 inches and 8 to 12 inches of snow according to the latest map from the National Weather Service Boston.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, Belmont schools will open on Monday.

In a 4 p.m. Sunday update from the NWS, heavy accumulating snow will come in two parts:

  • First part beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday through just after midnight Monday, Dec. 2, with the heaviest snow north of the Mass Pike;
  • The second part will begin Monday night into Tuesday morning, with greater snowfall in eastern Massachusetts.

A mix of freezing rain and sleet along with light snow will fall during the day Monday.

Teachers Holding Public Forum Wednesday On What Belmont Wants From Schools

Photo: The Belmont Education Association

Educators to Belmont: What do you want?

The Belmont Education Association – which represents the educators and staff in the Belmont School District – is seeking input from residents on what is important about education in the public schools at a public forum on Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. at the Belmont High School library.

What will be discussed is:

  • What does the community value about Belmont public schools, and
  • What would it like to see changed.

This input will help inform the BEA’s upcoming negotiations for a new three year contract.

To sign up for the meeting, or to respond to the questions online if you cannot attend, go to:

Summer Recess Begins Monday At Belmont Public Schools

Photo: Final walk out of the Wellington.

The unofficial start of summer begins today, Monday, June 17 as Belmont marks the final day of the 2018-19 public school year.

Students won’t be spending the entire day in class as it is an early release for all grades.

Belmont High School: 10:30 a.m.

Chenery Middle School: 11 a.m.

Burbank, Butler and Wellington elementary schools: 11:40 a.m.

Winn Brook: 11:50 a.m.

Some of the elementary schools will have a final walk out of school of the 4th grade students who will be heading to the Chenery Middle School in the fall.

While school is officially “out” for summer recess, there is one final student event taking place: On Saturday, June 22, Belmont High’s boys’ and girls’ rugby squads will complete in the MIAA Division 1 state championships at Curry College in Milton.

And for parents anxious for a return to normalcy, the 2019-2020 school year for 1-12 grades will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 4, with a half day. Kindergarten students will be starting either on Sept. 5 or 6 for a half day.

Snow Day: Belmont Public Schools Closed Monday; Late Opening For Town Offices

Photo: Snow day

Due to the heavy snow expected to fall overnight, all Belmont public schools are closed tomorrow, Monday, March 4th, according to Belmont town officials.
Town offices, the Belmont Public Library, the Beech Street Center and the school administration offices will open at 10:30 a.m.  All evening meetings, including the Board of Selectmen’s meeting, will be held as scheduled.

Kindergarten Parent Information Night Set For Thursday, Jan. 24

Photo: Kindergarten Parent Information Night.

The Belmont Public Schools is holding its Kindergarten Parent Information Night on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Chenery Middle School auditorium located at 95 Washington St. Parking in the school’s lot is off Orchard Street.

(Snow date is Thursday, Jan. 31).

This is a general information night for parents and guardians of students entering kindergarten at Belmont Public Schools in the 2019-2020 school term with the four elementary schools represented; Mary Lee Burbank, Daniel Butler, Roger Wellington, and Winn Brook. Presenting will be Belmont Superintendent John Phelan along with school and central office personnel.

New in March is Kindergarten Central Registration for families with kindergarten students entering in 2019-2020. More details will be presented at Kindergarten Information Night and information is also available on the Belmont Public Schools website .

Please note: Kindergarten Parent Information Night is for adults only.


‘Override’ Class Of Belmont Educators Earn Professional Status

Photo: The ‘Override” Class of newly minted professional educators.

A quiz of teachers gathered at the Chenery Middle School on Tuesday, Oct. 9 to celebrate a milestone in their career; earning their professional teaching status in the Belmont public schools. Each in the group had successfully completed three years teaching or working with educators and had started their fourth school year last month.

And it’s a whopper of a class: 33 teachers and administrators by far the largest number of educators to earn professional status in the collective institutional memory of administrators attending the ceremony hosted by the Belmont School Committee. Mary Pederson, the schools director of human resources, said the number reflects both retirements and “that this year marks the first group of staff that was hired with the funds from the (2015) override we successfully passed.” 

“And I know the students and parents in the district … are grateful we have all of you out in the schools teaching classes and helping to keep our class sizes aren’t so big,” said Pederson. Superintendent John Phelan and School Committee Chair Susan Burgess-Cox greeted and presented each attending educator with a small gift

The educators are:

  • Elizabeth Baker, Belmont High, Director of Science
  • David Beebe, Chenery, Technology Engineering
  • Maria Bonfiglio, Burbank, Special Education
  • Jane Brandt, Chenery, ESL
  • Lauren Chancey, Winn Brook, Grade 2
  • Robyn Cohen, Chenery, Guidance Counselor
  • Abbie Dufault, Butler, Grade 1
  • Kate Ebdon, Wellington, Grade 2
  • Laura Fink, Burbank, Grade 2
  • Ezra Flam, Belmont High, Theater Arts
  • Caeli Fraher, Winn Brook, Grade 1
  • Timothy Glick, Chenery, Math, Grade 8
  • Jonathan Golden, Chenery, Math, Grade 7
  • David Gonzales, Chenery, Health+Physical Education
  • Anna Guastella, Belmont High, English
  • Jenna Judge, Wellington, Grade 1
  • Catrina Knapp, Chenery, Grade 5, Math/Science
  • Megan Marincic, Winn Brook, ESL
  • Kimberly Masterson, Belmont High, English
  • Kathryn McLeod, Belmont High, Technology Engineering
  • Stephanie Messing, Butler, Grade 2
  • Aaron Ogilvie, Wellington, Grade 4
  • Mark Olowinski, Belmont High, Math
  • Jessica Pulido, Belmont High, Math
  • Jennifer Scranton, Elementary, Science Facilitator
  • Erin Severy, Wellington, Grade 4
  • Jamie Shea, Belmont High, Social Studies
  • Cynthia St. Clair, Wellington, Grade 3
  • Leslie Sullivan, Belmont High, French and Spanish
  • Crystal Waters, Chenery, Math, Grade 6
  • Grace Yegen, Chenery, ESL