Superintendent's Newsletter

April 15, 2021


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Wishing you the best for the April Break

Good evening, WPS Community,

Hopefully, the April Nor'easter blows through tonight and leaves us with an excellent week for our April break, but doesn't blow away all of our tents. The stretch from February Break to April Break has been very busy, and having this time off will allow all of us to reset and rejuvenate as we get ready for the next 9 weeks of school.

The transition to full-day, five-day school has gone very well at the elementary and middle school level, albeit quite tiring for our students and staff. We look forward to welcoming our high school students back on April 26, and are already preparing for next fall.

Our custodians and maintenance staff worked diligently to ready our buildings by repopulating our classrooms with the furniture that was in deep storage and readying our school buildings for the increased demands that a building full of children poses during a pandemic. Our faculty and staff prepared their rooms and their lessons, shifting from the hybrid model to in-person learning for those students who elected to be in school full time. Our Leadership Team organized the shift with aplomb, making sure that all of the necessary scheduling challenges were settled, including the greatest challenge of them all: lunch. And speaking of lunch, thank you to our school nutrition staff who have been hard at work since March of 2020 keeping our students fed and ready to learn.

While it may seem like it is school as usual, there is nothing usual about it. I can say firsthand that the buildings are loud and joyous with our students being happy to be back together with their peers. Even though the energy is high, the students are very mindful of social distancing and following the protocols, even though they are back with all of their friends. Teachers are adjusting to teaching to a room full of students who are all sitting in rows, facing forward, which is a big shift from our smaller learning pods and tables that we had prior to the pandemic. But our amazing teachers are very adept at adapting to whatever comes their way, as we have seen first hand over the past 13 months.

Our elementary remote students have moved into a full-day schedule, mirroring their in-person peers, providing them with the same high-quality education. Our middle school remote students, for the most part, are now together in classes that are very responsive to their remote learning needs. We look forward to the day that we are all able to come back together, hopefully this fall.

I want to extend a warm thank you to all of our parents and caregivers who have been and continue to be excellent partners in the educational process during the pandemic. And I also am deeply grateful for our amazing educators, support staff, and administrators who have kept us moving forward without missing a beat.

Enjoy the coming week,

Dede Galdston

WPS COVID-19 Travel Protocols

As we head into the April Break, please review the Watertown Public Schools' protocol for return from travel out of state or out of the country.

Domestic Travel:

Any students who travel out of state must quarantine for 10 days before they are allowed to return to school. Watertown Public Schools exempts students within the following categories:

  • Travelers who have received a negative COVID-19 result on a test administered not more than 72 hours prior to their arrival in Massachusetts. Travelers may also test out of the quarantine advisory after arrival in Massachusetts, as long as they quarantine until receiving a negative test result.

  • Anyone who is returning to Massachusetts after being out of the State for fewer than 24 hours

  • Travelers who are fully vaccinated (i.e. who have received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines OR who have received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 14 days or more ago) and who do not have symptoms.

International Travel:

Anyone arriving from an international destination must quarantine for 10 days, per the recommendation of the Watertown Health Department. During days 11 - 14, students may return to school as long as they are symptom-free. A COVID test is required on day 15 and can be obtained through the school testing program provided day 15 falls on a day when tests are administered at the school. *Families should consult with the school nurse and building administrator regarding international travel throughout the duration of the global pandemic as guidelines change rapidly.*

These protocols are subject to change due to the trajectory of the virus. It is always best to consult with your child's school nurse or principal when considering travel.

COVID-19: Mandatory Student COVID-19 Pooled Testing

The District continues to provide weekly pooled surveillance testing to all Watertown Public Schools students, and this testing is mandatory for all students who are learning in-person. The School Committee unanimously approved the recommendation contained within the updated COVID-19 Handbook Addendum.

We have reached out to all of our elementary and middle school families and we are close to a 99% participation rate. The rate will not be 100% due to medical and religious exemptions, and we are very pleased with the responsiveness of our elementary and middle school families.

We now are working with our high school families to gather the consents for testing prior to their return on Monday, April 26. This is a requirement for return, and families who choose not to participate are welcome to continue their learning through our live streaming options from home.

The Coronavirus is a highly contagious disease that spreads easily without proper safety mitigations. The adjustment from 6 to 3 feet requires a more stringent mitigation strategy, which includes mandatory testing for all students in Watertown. The majority of staff members at this time have started their vaccination regimen, and staff will continue to participate in weekly testing until fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 universal surveillance pooled testing will be completed once a week with a non-invasive anterior nasal swab testing protocol and is mandatory for all students who are learning in-person. All students who will be returning to full 5-day in-person instruction will be required to fill out the “Commitment to In-Person Learning, COVID Protocols, and Consent for Pooled Testing” form prior to returning to in-person school. This additional safety measure is fully supported by the Watertown Health Department.

It is important to note that testing, combined with vaccinations, contact tracing, and isolation, helps control the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The availability of in-person instruction and the District's in-person health and safety implementation guidelines will be determined and continually assessed using up-to-date data and guidelines provided by the Watertown Health Department, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

For more information about pool testing, please refer to the following information video.

**If you or a member of your household has tested positive for COVID-19 or is in the process of being tested due to exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, please keep your child home and contact the school nurse.

Our elementary projects are moving right along, with the Cunniff Elementary School taking the shape of its future self. The Hosmer may be slightly behind, it is easy to imagine how it will look once it is fully buttoned up.

We are currently finalizing plans for the swing space for the Lowell Elementary School project that is set to begin in February 2022, once the Hosmer Elementary School is complete. In 2021/2022, we are planning on having our K-1 students attend school at the Phillips School, with grades 2-5 attending at Lowell West (the former St. Jude's School in Waltham). In 2022/2023, grades K-2 will be at the Phillips School and students in grades 3-5 will be at Lowell West. This plan will only have Lowell students move into the swing space once and then back to the newly renovated Lowell.

The School Building Committee continues working on its one-site plan on the current location, focusing on determining how best to house WHS in a modular school at Moxley Field and the ground floor of WMS during construction, beginning in 2023, just after the Lowell project is complete. There will be a School Building Committee meeting on April 21 at 6:00 pm for anyone interested in learning more about the project. For more information, please visit the Building For The Future webpage.

Upcoming Events

Superintendent's Coffee

Wednesday, April 28th, 9am

This is an online event.

The Superintendent will be holding two "Coffees" on Wednesday, April 28 at 9:00 am and 7:00. The same Zoom link will be used for both Coffees.

The purpose of the Coffee is to provide parents and community members with the opportunity to learn more about what we are doing in our schools, to listen to your feedback and answer your questions.

Watertown School Committee Meeting

Monday, May 3rd, 7pm

This is an online event.

Please join us at the next School Committee Meeting on Monday, May 3.

Zoom Link