Real Estate Insights & Advice In Uncertain Times

BY KIM SIEBERT MACPHAIL

Life has changed abruptly. Much is uncertain. How long will the pandemic last? What does the future hold?

There are few, if any, clear answers. But for those anxious about the real estate market, a snapshot of the moment offers some useful guidance.

How is the Lexington Real Estate Market Faring?

Judy Moore

Judy Moore, of Barrett-Sotheby’s International Realty, counsels everyone to remain calm. Based on her 30 years of experience as a local realtor, Moore emphasized that Lexington remains in a strong position.

“This is the right place to be if you’re going to go through something like this,” Moore said, noting that the 2008 economic crisis was based on the mortgage industry, while the pandemic crisis is not. “Lexington is amazingly resilient. We are close to Boston— and obviously the schools are a big asset. Real estate has always been one of the best investments you can make here. I don’t think that’s going away any time soon.”

Joyce Murphy

Joyce Murphy of The Murphy Group/William Raveis has been in the Lexington real estate business for 25 years.  She believes that Lexington’s historic qualities, proximity to area hospitals, and convenient location to the city and Logan Airport maintain the town’s appeal.

“I’ve been through a number of these drops in the market,” Murphy recalled. “Lexington historically has not had the same drop prices as many of the other communities inside Rte. 95 have.  Lexington is a great place to live. It will always be desirable. It’s like a blue-chip stock”

Current data shows that the early April 2020 market remains a seller’s market. Residential prices have not softened, although what happens in the future will depend on how long the pandemic continues.  For the moment, realty web traffic seems to indicate that buyers are still looking from afar, even if much of their bandwidth is being consumed by world events.

Murphy said she was somewhat surprised by the number of listings that came on the market and sold during early and mid-March. “People that had the momentum and were ready went ahead, especially with properties in that highly-sought Lexington price point of about $1.3m,” she said.  “They might not have had 10 offers but, nevertheless, they sold right away. The number of new listings [during that timeframe] was lower than usual— but they all sold or are under agreement.”

Moore’s perspective matches this assessment. “We’re still getting multiple offers on Lexington properties. What I am telling buyers who are willing move forward is that this may be their opportunity to have less competition and they could take advantage of that. Once this [uncertain time] is over, we will have a lot of pent-up demand and there will be lots of competition. I anticipate a huge [upward] blip in inventory as well. There will be a buying frenzy.”

Murphy foresees the same quiet-to-busy trajectory. She speculated that having so much time uninterrupted time together as a family unit might kindle forestalled discussions about downsizing or upsizing.  Additionally. city dwellers who have so far rejected the idea of moving to the suburbs might reconsidered after being cooped up in close quarters for so many weeks.

“People I’ve been talking to tell me how appreciative they are of the space they have in Lexington—how glad they are not to live in a congested city right now,” Murphy reported.

Moore counsels both buyers and sellers to remember their long-term goals and to embrace strategic thinking, rather than to make reactionary decisions. Murphy advises buyers to contact a good mortgage broker and to and work with him/her to understand the newly revised credit scoring system, which has an impact on how low their interest rate will be.

What’s Been Lost? What’s Been Gained?

Moore and Murphy both reported that they now meet several times a week with their colleagues and counterparts to stay aware of how the pandemic is affecting the real estate landscape. The industry is taking pains to adapt and adjust. Companies like Barrett-Sotheby’s and William Raveis are making use of technological enhancements and they have devised new safety protocols. Although transactions have slowed, mortgage interest rates are favorable and deals continue to go through.

As a marketing tool, on-premise, en masse open houses were eliminated by mid-March. Losing this tried and true option has forced the real estate industry to innovate and adapt, largely by making enhancements to technology. Things once done in person can now be done, out of necessity, from a distance. Visual platforms such as Matterport; virtual showings via Zoom or Facetime; and E-filings for Purchase and Sale and closings are all examples of industry alternatives that make it possible for business to continue.

Moore noted that even before Covid-19, most buyers were already “visiting” properties online before attending an open house or calling to book a showing. The difference now is that everyone must access properties this way.

“Matterport is a [rich, interactive] 3-D experience,” Moore explained. “You can literally walk through every room yourself. You can take the automatic tour, you can walk into each room, or you can look at the ‘dollhouse’ view. You can choose which floor you want to be on and walk through that floor. It’s a wonderful tool. You feel like you’re right there.”

William Raveis uses Matterport as well, although Murphy reported that the platform works best for larger homes. The process for capturing data to create a Matterport visual is time-consuming, Murphy said. For new listings, she is mostly uses it when the owners can be absent for an extended period.

If a house is unoccupied, an in-person house tour can still be possible, although strict guidelines require the realtor to be the only person to touch anything. If this option is available for a particular property, the realtor wears gloves and wipes down all surfaces afterward.

But Moore strongly encourages buyers to take advantage of the virtual tour enhancements to help winnow down the properties they are interested in. “If you’re stuck at home, you can do the whole thing virtually…[From our end,] we know there’s a lot of shopping and inquiring going on…If you find the property you really love, we’ll get you in to see it, if we can… If your long-term goal is to find a house in the neighborhood or the town where they want it to be, keep the goal in mind and act strategically. You’ll find your house.”

Although business continues, buyers and sellers should anticipate delays in the closing process.  Legal work is slower to complete. Mortgages may take longer to approve— in part because of a brisk re-finance business due to lower interest rates.  Coordinating visits to properties by assessors, repair personnel, surveyors, fire inspectors, etc. are apt to take longer than they traditionally have. Final walk-throughs can still be arranged, but only in a highly-choreographed manner so that not too many people are inside a house simultaneously.

“Lenders are still lending, although carefully, and they are also doing virtual appraisals,” Moore explained. “Documents can be signed electronically. Contingencies can be included in the Purchase and Sale agreement to allow for delays.”

Moore sees a potential upside in these changes of necessity. “If anything, I think some interesting new business models will come out of this. I’ve always believed in the power of virtual marketing. Whatever tool is out there, believe me, we’re taking advantage of it.”

 “Not the Spring We Expected”

Statistics drawn from The Warren Group show that Covid-19 interrupted what had been a robust local and regional real estate market.  A very active spring market was anticipated, based on the sales trends at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.

To illustrate, in Lexington the 2020 January/February timeframe saw 30 single-family residential closings with a median sales price of $1.1 million and 7 condominium closings with a median sales price of $969,900.  MLSPIN, a real estate listing service, reports that although the for-sale inventory was about the same year-to-year, January/February 2019 saw only 18 single-family closings (median price $887,500) and 5 condo closings (median price $515,000). Both prices and number of sales increased significantly from 2019 to 2020.

Median prices vary, depending on the sale prices of homes in a particular time period. For-sale inventory remains low, as it has been over the past couple of years, meaning that it is still a seller’s market.  Currently, there are 43 homes for sale in Lexington; 3-4 years ago, the number was closer to 100.

Moore reported that some sellers have decided to postpone putting their houses on the market, but they are poised to do so once the Covid-19 crisis has abated. To accommodate this group, she plans to add a “Coming Soon” page to the Barrett-Sotheby’s website that will include properties available in the future.

Murphy and Moore both emphasized that web traffic remains active and, while slower than usual, inquiries are still being fielded. Interest rates are low— and likely to rise— so buyers are motivated, although cautious.

Moore summarized, “We are able to function. It may be at a more creative level than we were before but it’s still effective and we’re still able to make things work. There’s no reason why a transaction by motivated parties can’t come together.”

Two More Perspectives

“The people part is the hardest”

In 1982, Doug and Kate Townsend moved to Perham Street in Lexington Park, just over the Bedford line. They made a life there, raised two daughters, and developed strong friendships with their neighbors. When the Townsends put their house on the market in February, they considered themselves lucky to be able to decamp to their new home near Buzzards Bay as the sale process unfolded. An open house during the first weekend in March yielded 5 offers and the Townsends accepted one of them. Then the process slowed down due to complications from Covid-19: the mortgage appraisal was delayed; the registry would not accept couriered documents; homeowners’ insurance became complicated; the non-profit in Acton they intended to donate their unwanted furnishings to closed its doors.

Kate Townsend expected her family home’s sale would have emotional ups and downs. They are always a part of the territory.  She was even able to take the additional Covid-19-related challenges in stride.

But there was something else she did not anticipate.

“I can’t say a proper good-bye to my neighbors. I can wave from a distance—and I’m sure we can go back at some point—but to leave this way feels really unsettling. We saw one household of neighbors from a distance and when we told them we were leaving, they started to cry. I couldn’t give a hug to the eleven-year-old girl who lives on the other side of our back fence. I’ve played games and done puzzles with her ever since she was four.”

A good time to buy that ski house?

Holly Bancroft Brown, of The Bean Group’s western Maine office, reports that due to the governor’s decree on March 15, the ski season at Sunday River was abruptly over, four to six weeks earlier than usual. Inventory was already slim but houses that would have sold in that timeframe remain on the market, although she noted that some people are still making inquiries. In some cases, prospective buyers are even defying the spirit of the “stay home” recommendations to come up and see properties.

“For about 12 hours, real estate was considered non-essential in Maine,” Brown reported. “Now, I can show houses but I’ve decided to only show vacant ones. Usually, this isn’t a problem with second homes. I wear a mask and gloves. I meet people at door and I ask them to put their hands in their pockets because I’m the only who can touch anything. Then we go through the house doing what I call “the ballet”. I open the closets, then retreat 10 feet away.  They look inside. When they’re done, they back away. I come back to close the closet door.”

Brown acknowledged that a good deal of paperwork processing for real estate transactions in Maine has changed as well. The state now encourages “mail away closings”. Brokers and lenders cannot attend closings. Buyers can’t be at home inspections. “It’s challenging to develop and adapt to the changes but business is still getting done.”

Brown speculated that current ski home owners might decide to liquidate this asset in the coming months, due to the vagaries of the stock market and income interruption.

“Because of our second home aspect, we may have gone, overnight, from a really strong sellers’ market to a buyers’ market,” Brown said. “But we don’t know yet.”

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An Interview with Mark Sandeen

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An Interview with Superintendent Dr. Julie Hackett

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An Interview with Congresswoman Katherine Clark

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Takeda Pharmaceuticals Donates $250,000 to Support Lexington Families in Need

The Town of Lexington has received a donation from Takeda Pharmaceuticals in the sum of $250,000. These funds will be used to provide aid to families in need who are impacted by COVID-19.

The funds will be segregated from all other donations to be used solely to provide financial assistance to Lexington residents experiencing unforeseen and unexpected financial crises related to COVID-19.

“We are deeply grateful for this generous donation by Takeda and for their commitment to helping Lexington residents during these uncertain times,” said Town Manager James Malloy. “These funds will help support those in our community who have felt the financial impacts of this pandemic. This thoughtful donation to the community demonstrates the quality business citizen that Lexington has in Takeda, and this is deeply appreciated.”

“As a company dedicated to the health and well-being of people around the globe, we recognize our responsibility to do as much as possible to help people in need due to the Coronavirus outbreak,” said Ramona Sequeira, President of Takeda’s US Business Unit. “The negative impact of this outbreak on our economy, healthcare system, families, and communities can’t be overstated.  We are proud to support the Town of Lexington, and to help them serve those in need during this critical time.”

Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ US Headquarters is located in Cambridge, Mass., and their Lexington campus employs approximately 3,000 people.

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In This Time of Crisis, We Can Have Faith in our Local Leaders

Every so often the resolve of a community is tested. And, with the onslaught of COVID-19 and its potential for great danger, we can take some refuge in the profound way our town leaders have stepped up to contain the situation, and navigate through uncharted waters.

Lexington is no stranger to facing adversity. There’s a reason they call Lexington “The Birthplace of American Liberty.” And, like the citizens of our town who stood their ground on a rainy April morning in 1775, we too will come together as a community to thwart a hazard unseen in any of our lifetimes.

Being a publisher of a community paper for the past twenty-five years here in Lexington has given me a unique perch to watch how well our town is managed. Over the years, I have watched members of the Board of Selectmen—now the Lexington Select Board—manage everything from road maintenance to ensuring prudent spending of local tax revenues. But, in my lifetime, I have never experienced a situation that presents such a serious threat to our well-being as individuals, and as a community. In this unprecedented situation, our town leaders have risen to the challenge of managing the unmanageable.

As a community, we can take com¬fort in the leadership and “steady hand” of our elected boards, our senior-level town managers, all of our town employees from custodial services to public safety, and most especially—our Town Manager Jim Malloy. This group of people being guided by Malloy and Select Board chair Doug Lucente, have exemplified what it takes to manage local government and keep a community calm in the midst of a local, regional and national emergency.

Another unsung hero in this scenario is LexMedia, the company that provides local access television here in Lexington. I have witnessed the commitment of this small group of young producers led by Florence DelSanto, and their willingness to do whatever is necessary to keep the people of Lexington informed and connected to our town government.

This month in the Colonial Times, we asked writers Denise Dubé and Devin Shaw to present how COVID-19 is effecting our town, and how our town leaders are working to stave off the ill effects of the virus. Our managing editor Laurie Atwater has also pulled together information on how to stay informed throughout this crisis. As Denise points out in her article, one of the biggest challenges in managing this situation is the ever-changing nature of an event that seems to unfold on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. With state and federal mandates changing daily, combined with the heavy toll on local business and the need to temporarily halt many public services here in Lexington, our leaders are faced with extraordinary challenges. And, so far, they have managed this situation well, giving people here in Lexington a sense that we are well-positioned.

One indication of the level of seriousness of the COVID-19 situation is the out¬right canceling of Patriots Day in Lexington. This is a first in my lifetime. I have never missed a Patriots Day celebration here in Lexington. From the time that my dad would take me and my siblings to the parade as a child, to current day, Patriots Day has always been a time for me and this community to share a common sense of pride in our role in the founding of our nation. I watched Select Board chair Doug Lucente struggle to say the words, “We must cancel Patriots Day in Lexington.” Given Doug’s years of involvement in organizing Patriots Day activities, I know just how difficult it was to utter those words.

Well, Patriots Day may not be taking place as a community event in 2020, but next month in April, the Colonial Times will publish some fun articles on the history of Patriots Day in Lexington, how some of our traditions were started, and about a couple of Presidential visits marking the centennial and bicentennial of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. We will also republish some of our favorite articles and photos from previous Patriots Day festivities.
LexMedia will also run highlights of past Patriots Day activities like parades, the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington, and other favorite Patriots Day activities.

In closing, I want to extend my gratitude, and the gratitude of all of the citizens of Lexington, to our Town leaders for dedicating the time and energy required to manage such a chaotic and unprecedented situation. Your efforts are truly appreciated.
Finally, I want to personally thank all of our dedicated advertisers here at the Colonial Times. Like every other business, we have been impacted. But, I know we will come out of this stronger than ever. As a free media publication, all of our revenue is generated through advertising. So, if you like and appreciate the information brought to you each month in the Colonial Times, please thank our advertisers and support them as much as possible. We would not be here without them.
Stay safe!

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Lexington Responds to the COVID-19 Crisis

 

Lexington currently has 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 17 people in quarantine

• All Town buildings are closed to the public through April 6. Many services are available online; for a complete list, visit LexingtonMA.gov/Online. If your circumstance warrants an in person meeting, please contact the department to schedule an in-person meeting, which is a last option. A list of department contacts can be found at LexingtonMA.gov/ContactUs.
• Patriots’ Day events have been canceled by a 5-0 vote of the Select Board.
• Playgrounds and athletic fields are closed to the public.
• Parks and open spaces can be used by residents at their own risk, but we would like to emphasize that they should be used for passive recreation, and that organized group activities are not allowed. Additionally, all public bathrooms will be closed.
• Governor Baker announced that all bars and restaurants will be ordered not to provide on-site service to patrons. Restaurants, however, will be allowed to provide pick-up and delivery services. We understand the economic impact of these decisions, so we are encouraging the community to support local businesses during these difficult times.
• Most Lexington Board and Committee meetings in March and April are canceled.
• The following Boards and Committees will continue to meet (all others are canceled) For the Boards, Committees and Commissions listed above, we will provide protocols on holding the meetings remotely as per the emergency legislation signed by the Governor last week:
Select Board, Appropriation Committee, Board of Assessors, Board of Health, Capital Expenditures Committee, Conservation Commission, Historic Districts Commission, Retirement Board, Historical Commission, Planning Board, School Committee, Zoning Board of Appeals
• Cary Library is closed March 13 – April 6, 2020.
• Lexington Community Center closed – March 13 – April 6, 2020.

 

By Denise Dubé

When Town Manager Jim Malloy said, at the start of Thursday night’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Community Information Forum, that guidelines are changing daily and sometimes hourly, he wasn’t kidding. Since the March 12 meeting, held in an empty and cavernous Battin Hall, Governor Charlie Baker and the state’s health agencies have lowered crowd size restrictions, called for restaurant restrictions and public space closings, and restricted governmental gatherings.

At this writing, it has all changed again – and once again Monday night by the federal government. Residents should expect constant alterations and check with the town website and other local resources. (See Senior Matters on page 46 for guidance for seniors and at-risk individuals.)

However, the basics have not changed. (See pages 30 & 31 for basic information and guidance.)

Addressing the ever-changing situation, the Select Board called an emergency meeting on Monday, March 16, at 2 p.m. in Town Hall – four days after the forum. There, the Select Board, the Town Manager, Town Meeting Moderator Deborah Brown, State Representative Michelle Ciccolo, and other officials, all sitting six feet apart, recognized changes and discussed the upcoming Town Meetings.

By the end, in a unanimous vote erring on the side of caution, Patriots Day events were canceled, and Town Meeting, slated to start March 23, will, in all probability, begin at a later date.

Further changes made during the Select Board meeting and noted later by Public Information Officer Sean Dugan: town offices and public buildings (including Cary Library and the Community Center) are closed to the public. Notices are being placed on doors reminding residents. Select Board Member Suzy Barry suggested that all public notices be translated in multiple languages for accessibility.

Select Board members, and Malloy advised people to call before visiting any town or community office. Town employees, Malloy said, will work in two shifts, some on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and others on Tuesday and Thursday. Some will work from home, he said.

It was also announced that “all playgrounds will be closed for public use. Parks and open spaces can be used by residents at their own risk, but we would like to emphasize that they should be used for passive recreation, and that organized group activities are not allowed. Additionally, all public bathrooms will be closed. The Pinemeadow Golf Course will still be open to the public for the time being since games are played in small groups, but that is subject to change.”

March 12 Virtual Forum

These changes, some big, some small, occurred after the March 12 virtual forum – a first in Lexington, but certainly not the last.

The March 12 COVID-19 forum included: Town Manager James Malloy, Lexington Board of Health Chair Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Select Board Chair Doug Lucente, Superintendent Julie Hackett, Director of Public Facilities Michael Cronin, Lexington Public Health Nurse David Neylon, Lexington Board of Health Member Dr. David Geller, Lexington Resident and Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL) president Hua Wang.

School Superintendent Dr. Julie Hackett explained that the schools would close for two weeks and that this would slow the spread of the virus. She explained that decades earlier, a winter break was introduced into the school system to break the cycle of illnesses that students continually shared. It worked, she said, and had every reason to believe it would work again.

Facilities Director Michael Cronin stated that his Public Facility Department staff would clean the schools in two stages, using PC 103 and PC 105 products during the closure. Custodians are trained in handling both products and will first scour by hand and then use a fogger that will permeate every corner and space. It’s so safe, he said, that a student “Could lick the desk,” and be fine.

“PC 103 is a disinfectant, and PC 105 is a sanitizer,” Cronin noted. “Both are registered with the (EPA) Environmental Protection Agency as being effective in killing the COVID 19 virus.”

PC 103 is sprayed on the surface for 10 minutes before being wiped away, and “PC 105 can also be applied to surfaces using a spray bottle, and that product is effective after only one minute of contact with a surface.” In a follow-up statement, he added, “PC 105 can also be used in an electrostatic fogger. It takes the sanitizer and positively charges it while converting it to fog. This is then sprayed throughout the entire room covering all areas, even those hard to get. The advantage of the positively charged ions is to allow the fog to cling and attach itself to surfaces that it wouldn’t come into contact with just gravity. The fog will wrap itself around desk legs, chair legs, etc. providing significantly better sanitization coverage. It is safe for use in food service and there are no concerns in the event a student’s mouth comes in contact with a surface that has been sanitized.”

Lexington Select Board Emergency Meeting

Emergency Select Board Session on March 16

By the time the Select Board met Monday in emergency session, Governor Charlie Baker had announced that all schools would close for three weeks, and legislative House Bill H4572 “An Act to Address Challenges in Town Governance Resulting from COVID-19” introduced that same day, would allow Lexington to delay Town Meeting. Members were amenable to postponement  for the allowable 30 days with the option to delay again. (For updates visit, on Town Meeting visit, www.lexingtonma.gov. For a PDF of the Governor’s bill see, www.malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4572.)

Town Manager James Malloy commented on the idea of holding a virtual Town Meeting. He reported that he had he virtually attended an online meeting with about 130 local officials the previous day, and that participants muted the computer and sent questions to the person leading the meeting. It worked well Malloy said.

Currently, most boards and committees will continue their work, but those events will be virtual or held via conference calls, Malloy said. “We’re in uncharted territory.”

Each Select Board member, in turn, thanked town employees for their excellent work and ability to respond quickly to this public health crisis.

Flattening the Curve – The Basics

There are some constants among the evolving changes. At Thursday’s forum residents were told to practice social distancing, wash hands and avoid crowds to minimize the opportunities for disease transfer. The state has mandated that no more than twenty-five people may gather and the federal government recently suggest that people limit gatherings to ten people or less in their “15 Days to Slow the Spread” document released on March 16.

Every health official agrees these efforts will help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus. Infections will still happen, but they won’t happen all at once in a huge surge that could overwhelm local hospitals.

The COVID-19 Virus in Lexington

“We have six confirmed cases,” Selectman Doug Lucente said via a telephone interview last Sunday evening. “We were at four last Thursday and three on Wednesday. A week ago, we had zero. Now we have six.”

Lexington Board of Health Chair Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays, who participated in the March 12 forum, spoke after the meeting. She and the four other members of the Board of Health work with the Department of Public Health.

The Boston University toxicologist asked that people please remember to wash their hands. “Be clean, be kind, be supportive,” Dr. Heiger-Bernays said.

“What we’re saying now is, it’s not about the numbers,” Dr. Heiger-Bernays said of crowds and groups. “One-hundred people in a classroom is not fine,” she said. “It’s about spatial density – about people in the room in which they are gathering.”

Dr. Heiger-Bernays also explained the difference between COVID-19’s “presumptive positive” and positive test results. “Presumptive positives” comes from the first testing that is done by the state.  “The tests then go to the CDC and become a real positive,” Dr. Heiger-Bernays said. She’s unaware of any presumptive positives that were not confirmed by the CDC.

Since then the state’s testing capacity has grown as federal officials granted Massachusetts permission to begin testing samples at the state’s public health laboratory, rather than sending them to a centralized location run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials at the forum noted that several independent labs will come online within the next few weeks, and that will increase testing abilities – and inevitably the numbers in Lexington.

“Quarantine does work,” Dr. Heiger-Bernays said. “What does that mean?” she said. “It means social distancing. It means when you sneeze or cough, six feet is how far the droplets go. So, you need to be six feet away. Droplets drop on surfaces, and the virus can survive for many days. That’s why we need to wash our hands so many times.”

“We are in the phase where we are trying to manage the everyday changes, which has been the case for the last three weeks,” Lucente said. We are adjusting to changes as they happen.”

The Select Board is working closely with the schools, the Lexington Office of Public Health and the Board of Health, and said that Neylon, the public health nurse, is working around the clock monitoring Lexington residents who suspect they have the virus.

“It’s a Herculean task,” he said of Neylon’s work. Keeping information current and making it public is a huge job for every town official. “It’s scary how quickly this is changing,” Lucente said. “The next phase we’ll get into is how can we help the people who are hurting.”

One way to help, Hua Wang said, is by educating the public. Wang, who is president of the Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL), referenced a racially charged incident on public transportation and urged people to stop that racist behavior in and outside of Lexington. “In times like this, we need to stand up for each other,” Wang said during the forum.

Lucente said there is an outpouring from groups and people trying to help. He foresees using the Fund for Lexington, set up 20 years ago as a safety net for Lexington residents, to help those who are in a bind because of COVID-19.

People can help by donating to the fund, Lucente said. He’s also chairman of that effort and suggested those interested send donations to Fund for Lexington, Trustees of Public Trust, 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, 02420. People in need can access the funds through the town’s Human Services Department. These emergency funds can be used to help pay rent, heating oil, and to buy groceries. All requests are confidential. (Town of Lexington Department of Human Services 781-698-4840).

Although state and federal officials are attempting to allocate resources for people, Lucente isn’t sure “how or when they will be distributed. None of us have done this before,” Lucente said.

Select Board Member Suzy Barry said, “This is not time to go inside your house and lock the doors.” She encouraged all of her fellow public officials to pick ten names each day and reach out by phone or email. Social distancing is not social isolation she stressed.

In the latest move by the state, Governor Charlie Baker announced that all bars and restaurants would be allowed to provide pick-up and delivery services only. No dine-in service is permitted for the foreseeable future.

The town issued a statement saying, “We understand the economic impact of these decisions, so we are encouraging the community to support local businesses during these difficult times.”

 

The Fund for Lexington
You can help neighbors in need by donating to the Fund for Lexington, which is administered by the Trustees for Public Trusts.
TO DONATE:
Fund for Lexington
Trustees of the Public Trusts
Town of Lexington
1625 Mass. Ave., Lexington, MA 02420

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COVID-19 Virus Preventive Measures

The COVID-19 Virus & Testing

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 “is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans. Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.”
Experts are finding that some with COVID-19 may only present with a sore throat or mild symptoms. Because it’s a danger to the elderly, those with compromised immune systems or preexisting conditions everyone must follow Lexington’s, the state’s, and the federal government’s recommendations of distancing, washing, and avoiding crowds. According to the CDC: “Mildly ill patients should be encouraged to stay home and contact their healthcare provider by phone for guidance about clinical management. Patients who have severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek care immediately. Older patients and individuals who have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their physician early in the course of even mild illness.”
Testing is the only way to determine if the virus is present. The CDC has criteria for those who qualify for testing. The benchmarks for testing are also evolving as testing becomes more available.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, there are three current priorities for testing:
1. Hospitalized patients who have signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 in order to inform decisions related to infection control.
2. Other symptomatic individuals such as, older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions and/or an immunocompromised state that may put them at higher risk for poor outcomes (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, receiving immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease).
3. Any persons including healthcare personnel, who within 14 days of symptom onset had close contact3 with a suspect or laboratory-confirmed4 COVID-19 patient, or who have a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of their symptom onset. (For a complete explanation, visit, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html )

 

In their most recent advisory, the Town of Lexington conveyed the following:
“All persons are urged to maintain social distancing (approximately six feet away from other people) whenever possible and to continue to wash hands, utilize hand sanitizer, and practice proper respiratory etiquette. All higher risk individuals should avoid large gatherings. Higher risk individuals include older adults, anyone with underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, anyone with weakened immune systems, and anyone who is pregnant.”
What follows is guidance on these precautions from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.gov/coronavirus), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-public-health) and the Town of Lexington (LexingtonMA.gov/COVID19).

SOCIAL DISTANCING
Social distancing is the practice of putting distance between yourself and others (at least 6 feet) and staying at home when you can to reduce transmission of the virus.

Because people can carry the virus and not display symptoms, this is important to reduce the transmission of the virus throughout the community. According to the state, Middlesex County is showing signs of community spread of the virus. On March 18, The Boston Globe reported: “Massachusetts hospitals began to see a mounting number of suspected coronavirus patients Tuesday, an ominous indication that the pandemic may be spreading in the region at a clip that is more rapid than the official state numbers imply.
Massachusetts General Hospital officials said the number of patients suspected to have COVID-19 in their emergency room or in beds had quadrupled to 53 between Monday and Tuesday, in addition to three other confirmed cases in intensive care and three in regular beds.”

If you must be out, avoid crowds. Governor Charlie Baker has prohibited restaurants from offering dine-in service and Lexington is included in that order, of course. Boston bars and beer gardens, restaurants small and large, coffee shops, sandwich shops and the like, are close to dine-in guests. Many restaurants are offering takeaway service, and takeout establishments are not curfewed. Check with restaurants ahead of time for specific details.

All are discouraged from gathering in groups in public places. Children and teens are discouraged from visiting older people, including their older family members. Teens and young people are often resistant to these guidelines, but they must be convinced to comply. Do your best to reinforce the message.
Every health official agrees these efforts will help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus. Infections will still happen, but they won’t happen all at once and save communities from overwhelming local hospitals which will, in turn, save lives by lessening the load on ICUs and demands on ventilators and protective gear for healthcare professional.

THE HYGIENE BASICS OF PREVENTIVE CARE
•There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
•The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
•The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:
– Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
-Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
• These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Wash Your Hands
• Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for twenty seconds after blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing, after using the restroom, before eating or preparing food, after contact with animals or pets, before and after providing routine care for another person who needs assistance (e.g. a child)
Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol and 70% isopropanol.
• When blowing your nose, use a tissue and dispose of the tissue. Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

 

cleaning supplies with bucket sponge spray housekeeing concept vector illustration graphic design

Clean and Disinfect
Make sure that you prepare your home should you need to protect a sick member of your family or if members of your household are traveling in and out of the house or apartment to perform necessary services.
Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
Other options include:
• Diluting your household bleach.
To make a bleach solution, mix:
5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water
OR
4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

• Alcohol solutions.Ensure solution has at least 60% ethanol and 70% isopropanol.
• If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
In case of an outbreak in your community, protect yourself and others and follow local guidance from the town and state.
• Stay informed about the local outbreak situation
• Keep away from others who are sick
• Limit close contact with others as much as possible (about 6 feet)
• Continue to practice everyday hygiene and preventive actions
• If someone in the household is sick, separate them into a prepared room
• If caring for a household member, follow recommended precautions and monitor your health
• Avoid sharing personal items
• If you become sick, stay in contact with others by phone or email
• Notify your work if your schedule needs to change
• Take care of the emotional health of your household members, including yourself

If You Feel Sick
•Stay home and speak to your healthcare provider if you develop fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Call your provider; do not go to an emergency room unless necessary.
• If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs*:
-Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
-Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
-New confusion or inability to arouse
-Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptom that is severe or concerning.

Take additional precautions for those at highest risk, particularly older adults and those who have severe underlying health conditions.
• Consider staying at home and away from crowds if you or a family member are an older adult or have underlying health issues

• Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home
When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick and limit close contact with others

 

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Lexington Public Schools’ New Strategic Plan Highlights Joy, Curiosity and Compassion

By Heather Beasley Doyle

Pictured: League if Women Voters of Lexington Spokesperson Lisa Smith, First Friday Forum co-organizer Ingrid Klimoff, LPS Superintendent Julie Hackett, LWV Convener Margaret Coppe, and LWV Treasurer Charles Hornig.
PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER BEASLEY DOYLE

Lexington Plan nears official implementation as values seep into schools

With rain melting the snow outside under gray skies, Public Schools Superintendent Julie Hackett stood in the large meeting room at Cary Memorial Library in February, waiting as Lisa Smith of the League of Women Voters of Lexington introduced her for the organization’s First Friday Forum. Hackett was there to talk about the district’s new strategic plan.

When she took to the podium, Hackett credited the school committee and community for recognizing that Lexington’s schools, known for academic excellence, could be even better. “The school system really needed some sort of glue to bind it together and some sort of conversation about how we were going to move forward,” she said. To that end, Hackett has led an effort over the past year and a half to create a new strategic plan for Lexington Public Schools.

The plan includes eight core values, a 10-year vision statement, and four strategic goals (see sidebar). A brief mission statement—Joy in learning; curiosity in life; and compassion in all we do—encapsulates the plan’s spirit. Hackett, who took over as LPS superintendent in July 2018, had already worked on a handful of strategic plans before arriving in Lexington. Throughout the process here, she has reiterated that most strategic plans bear a “remarkable sameness,” which she wanted to avoid this time around.

The process included community members, students, teachers, and administrators. Hackett said in an interview that those at the helm took care to connect with specific interest groups, to glean the broadest possible picture of community priorities and opinions, then using that data and feedback to create a customized, detailed vision.

Under Hackett’s leadership, a Strategic Planning Team spearheaded the plan’s creation. Another group, the Synthesis Team (the superintendent and central administration members sat on both teams), had a specific, crucial job within the effort. Members gathered, distilled, and worked to articulate community sentiment. Hackett is satisfied with the new plan’s singularity. She’s not alone. “We came up with this not because we dreamed it up out of our heads in a conference room, but because it came from actual input from people in the community,” School Committee Chair Eileen Jay said during the First Friday Forum.

The resulting core values, vision statement, and goals lay the groundwork for a culture shift within Lexington’s schools. Hackett is quick to emphasize that the plan does not move the district away from academic excellence. “We have high achievers, we have high expectations; that’s not something we ever want to lose,” she said.

She was just as clear that Lexington Public Schools needed to address some fundamental problems head-on for the first time. She pointed to students who are academically “in the middle,” talked about creating different kinds of educational experiences, highlighted the need to cultivate interpersonal skills, and mentioned student stress more than once. “The community has identified a need for a transformation when they talk about the fact that our kids are feeling stress and pressure that, perhaps, is unnecessary in some cases,” she said. “We have had in the past, and it can’t be ignored, students who have taken their own lives. This happens in other communities, too, and it is really important to us to pay attention because we’re all responsible for creating and raising healthy young adults.”

At this point, the plan “is both done and not done,” according to Hackett. “The framework, the structure, the roadmap is complete,” she said. But “a document that is complete would have the strategy and the implementation and the expectations, along with the framework that’s been created.” The final step is “to talk about the actual strategies that we’re going to implement, and how we intend to go about that.” Those talks have begun and will continue in mid-March. Ultimately, the plan will include specific, district-wide implementation plans. One example is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) hiring practice initiatives.

At the League of Women Voters event, Hackett broadly outlined the plan’s goals and tenets and showed two videos illustrating its process and core values. Mostly, she opened the floor to questions. Attendees raised several issues, including school/community communication and different options for offering vocational-style skills and education. Notably, the strategic plan’s “touchy-feely” qualities were questioned, with one attendee wondering what the new approach meant for academics. Hackett reiterated that academic rigor isn’t being sidelined, but opened up so that teaching even traditional subjects doesn’t “necessarily have to look like a traditional form of education,” she said. “What we want to do is give people permission to experiment with those ways. The plan also talks about taking risks, experiencing failure—all of the things that we know are important parts of learning. So we haven’t abandoned the academics.”

One of the biggest challenges, Hackett said during the interview, has been the time and work involved in both reaching Lexington’s grassroots and aggregating the information collected through forums, meetings and other events—and carefully crafting the plan’s wording from that data. “Making time to make sure that all voices were represented was something that was really important to all of us,” she said.

Hearing from so many voices in the community created another challenge: squaring up a wide array of opinions. “‘Have a lot of homework’ or ‘don’t have any homework’ would be the recommendation, so it would be polar opposite points of view. And that’s just one small example.” The synthesis team’s job, she added, wasn’t to report out on community opinions, but to create a unified vision with them. “Giving people the confidence to help me make those choices was also a challenge inherent in the process,” she explained. “It’s our job and our duty and our obligation, most importantly to kids, to be able to say, ‘here’s the direction we’re headed, and I know that might not completely meld with where some people want to go, but here’s the direction we’re headed, here’s why, and we hope you’ll partner with us in it.”

As the synthesis team determines which strategies to implement, and how, some in the district are already bringing the new core values, vision, and mission statement to life, in classrooms, at a nurses’ meeting, in school committee meetings and beyond. Diversity, equity and inclusion, Hackett noted, has already taken hold in a number of ways.

With the plan gradually evolving from ideas into practice, and with Lexington Public Schools exploring a more holistic approach, Hackett reflected on the journey: “This was definitely the most exciting and engaging strategic planning experience that I’ve ever been involved in.”

 

WHAT’S IN THE NEW LPS STRATEGIC PLAN?
Lexington Public Schools’ new strategic plan includes a mission, a vision, core values and strategic goals. You can find brief summaries of each below. The vision, as the term implies, is aspirational, describing key qualities that the district aims to embrace and exemplify by 2029.
For more detail, visit the superintendent’s blog online at: lexsuper.home.blog. Scroll to Reference Materials, then click on Executive Summary of the Strategic Plan.
MISSION:
Joy in learning; curiosity in life; and compassion in all we do.
VISION STATEMENT:
Diversity, equity, and inclusion:
Everyone has a right to an excellent education, and it is our individual and collective responsibility to create learning opportunities and systems that are fair and just.
REDEFINING SUCCESS: 
Lexington Public Schools has expanded its definition of success beyond traditional notions of student achievement.
STUDENTS AS ACTIVE AGENTS: 
Students voice their opinions, choose their learning pathways, and help shape their experiences and school culture.
Authentic learning experiences: Students make meaning by applying knowledge and skills to realistic situations, and they are prepared for their future as employees, leaders, citizens and stewards of our world.
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP:
We all join in partnership with the common goal of providing the highest quality of education for our students.
CORE VALUES:
We all belong
Use your mind
Be curious and have fun
Care for yourself and others
Do your part
Be courageous
Embrace your revolutionary spirit
You are enough
STRATEGIC GOALS:
Address and narrow equity gaps
Redefine success
Cultivate student agency
Innovate for sustainable change

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People Need Help. People Are Losing Work. HelpAroundTown.com Connects neighbors.

Your local community is one of the best solutions for helping each other in hard times. HelpAroundTown (HAT), an app designed to connect neighbors for small jobs, has launched a special area for getting and receiving help with COVID.

HAT connects helpers to those in need. For example, in the COVID area you can find help with:
•Grocery shopping and errands while quarantined
•Getting your yard cleaned up and ready for spring
•Help moving items while far away
•Babysitting outside while parents work from home

 

HAT was built during the previous financial crisis for neighbors to safely help each other and build trust, flexibly and affordably. Posting tasks is free and helpers get 100% of payment.

“HelpAroundTown is designed to make people’s lives better. We generate jobs while getting things done. We connect neighbors within a mile of each other and promote people’s needs or availability, while protecting their privacy.” said President Reem Yared today. “We now have a section specifically for finding or offering help with the coronavirus pandemic. Please go to HelpAroundTown.com/categories/COVID-19.”

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