Dr. Shultz December 9, 2021 Update

December BPS Update
Posted on 12/09/2021
Update from the Superintendent, Dr. Carl ShultzDecember 9, 2021

Dear BPS Families,

I hope that this update finds all our students, staff, and families healthy and well. Never being one to sugarcoat the truth, I will begin by stating the obvious in that the start of the 2021-2022 school year, much like a majority of the previous two years, has not gone as we had all hoped. Whether it is the unrelenting pandemic forcing the district to make difficult choices to preserve our highly successful in-person learning programs, the constant streaming of negative news and emotions we are all inundated with daily, or the absolutely disheartening news of last week’s tragedy in Oxford; our students, staff, and families have already endured what seems like a decade worth of difficulty in just a few short months. However, in the darkness, I am comforted by the fact that it could be much worse for us, and for that I am personally thankful and upbeat about what the remainder of the year can bring. I learned a long time ago that to be successful, you must plan for and address all challenges head-on, while still remembering to celebrate and build-upon the successes that are achieved. That is exactly how I try to lead BPS and what I hope to achieve in this notably lengthy superintendent update.

District Safety

In accordance with recent events, district leadership has begun a comprehensive review of all district and associated community-related safety protocols. This process has included: a walking inventory of all district buildings to ensure proper safety equipment is in place and in good working order, a meeting with Monroe County Sheriff Department leadership to discuss and plan for increased working relationships and protocols, research and planning for additional safety tools such as handheld radios that connect directly with first responders for faster response, and reviewing our current building safety plans for potential enhancements and gaps that can be addressed. A number of these steps are already impacting what our campuses look like and how they function on a daily basis. Through our conversations with Sheriff Troy Goodnough, a noticeable increase in his department’s deputy’s presence can be seen in and around our district’s buildings.

In addition, our walking building inventories has shown that our school buildings have never been safer. All of this is in addition to the already strong security and safety measures that BPS has in place such as comprehensive ALICE System training and implementation for staff and students, safe entryways at each building for visitors, remote keyless entry at all buildings for staff, current installation of a new comprehensive security camera system, as well as two full-time active-duty sheriff deputies serving our district as resource officers. Overall, I am very pleased with our district and community preparedness and response capabilities. This does not mean that we will cease trying to improve, it simply shows the district’s dedication to safety. As stated earlier this week, if ever there is a credible or a non-credible, but unverified threat or occurrence within the district, BPS leadership and staff will take immediate responsive action. If this has not occurred, please understand that it is because any reported threats have been cleared as non-credible, rumor, or a hoax. We take these scenarios seriously as well, but once determined that this is the case, we would not need to take evasive measures as a classroom or building. Last week’s panic due to social media sharing of non-credible threats is a good example of this process. While there is never a “perfect” amount of communication regarding these types of instances that meets all stakeholder expectations, we will continue to communicate as necessary and as often as possible.

Inclement Weather

As we head into the long haul that is a Michigan winter, I want to once again remind our families and staff that Bedford Public Schools utilizes a variety of different options for dealing with extreme weather:

1) cancellation,
2) two-hour delay,
3) two-hour delay that converts to a cancellation if conditions fail to improve, and
4) early release from school if conditions become dangerous.

Each of the available options can be difficult for families due to the change in normal scheduling and we will always try our best to ensure that decisions are made allowing the most time for parents to make arrangements as possible. The process for making decisions based on the weather is contingent upon many factors and is rarely ever going to make sense to everyone. I will simply remind everyone that not all families have 4x4 vehicles, live on easily passable roads, or are completely comfortable driving/walking in severe conditions. In addition, school buses while heavier than average vehicles are much more prone to sliding on ice and getting stuck on impassable side/sub-division streets. As superintendent, I will always err on the side of caution and I always head-out in the early morning along with my team members to inspect the roads for myself. If you have any questions regarding our district process, please ask your building principal what you and your family can expect on inclement weather-related school days. Finally, please make sure to contact the building secretary for your child’s school if you have made any changes to your personal contact information (phone, email, or home address) to ensure that you will receive the district’s emergency/weather messages using our Infinite Campus Messenger System. This is the best way to keep up to date on any delays or cancellations due to inclement weather. In the very near future, the district will be sharing information on how families can opt-in for the Infinite Campus Messenger Texting service to make communication alerts even easier.

Positive Happenings

Just because the start of the school year has not gone exactly how we had all hoped, it doesn’t mean that BPS is without things to celebrate. Please know that this is but a brief list of recent district-related celebrations and that there are so many more that you are hopefully aware of across the community. BPS approved bond work has been substantially completed on time and under budget. The remaining items are being wrapped up over the holiday break and district leaders will begin reviewing options for how to utilize the remaining funds available on approved bond-related projects. In addition, the district welcomed the opening of our newly created BPS Administration Building and dedicated Board/Community Room located at Smith Road Elementary to help better serve our community. New school building LED monument signs were installed at each of our BPS schools to enhance school to community communication. The district’s 2021 financial audit was completed and presented by our audit firm late last month. Overall, BPS is in the strongest financial position that we have experienced in decades. This will help to provide continued support for student programs, staff retention and attraction, as well as a comprehensive plan for upgrading non-bond related projects and a comprehensive resources/equipment replacement program.

In addition to the successful district-wide initiatives, BPS students and staff members have enjoyed a great deal of success so far this school year. Student athletes across the district have competed and won championships and big games at all levels. Students performing in our highly respected BHS Marching Band scored perfect marks at festival and once again demonstrated why they are the “Best Band in the Land”. Bedford Junior High Robotics Teams (yes, 3 teams) earned their way to compete in the upcoming State of Michigan First Tech Challenge Championships. Our high school theatre program put on an outstanding in-person fall performance. Students across our elementary buildings have enjoyed daily specials classes once again and have created unbelievably wonderful projects for display throughout our buildings. Finally, Bedford High School learned that one of our talented students was named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. This award is presented to the nation’s highest achieving scholars who demonstrate academic and personal excellence. All of these incredible achievements once again demonstrate that great students come from dedicated families and strong school districts.

What to Expect

The goal for the remainder of the school year is to continue progressing toward a less COVID-Centric existence as a district. While I am unfortunately unable to provide families with an exact date for ending our current masking requirement, our leadership has begun planning for a transition back to allowing some of our former protocols. This includes once again allowing parent volunteers inside of buildings and classrooms starting with the beginning of second semester. Volunteers will need to complete the district’s mandated annual background check for volunteering and will be required to follow the district’s COVID safety procedures that are in place at the time of visitation. We are encouraged by the district’s recent stability in positive COVID cases and continue to review options daily. Recent case level spikes in our community, state, and nation dampens our abilities to reduce current district health and safety requirements, but we do see that there is hope in the future for individuals that find wearing masks difficult. Even with the increased case levels previously mentioned, BPS case numbers continue to stabilize, resulting in severely reduced student and staff member quarantine situations.

Finally, I would like to reiterate that our goal of maintaining safe in-person learning is still in great standing. BPS has not had to transition a single building or the district to remote learning this school year. We also want to ensure that student extra-curricular activities are maintained at all grade levels. We understand that there may still be a necessity to reduce or alter some events, however, as long as we continue to work together as a community, BPS will continue to do whatever it takes to offer the best opportunities for our students. This has officially become my longest superintendent update, so I will end here. Thank you once again for your support and for your continued partnership in education.

Dr. Carl Shultz
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