School Committee Meeting Summary

January 27, 2022

Walpole High School Student Report

Grace R., Walpole High School student representative to the School Committee, was present at the School Committee Meeting. Grace gave a report as follows:

  • These last couple weeks have been very busy for students as we approach the end of the first semester on Friday, January 21.
  • Students wrapped up their semester long classes with many classes having finals.
  • This Monday, the second semester began and students were excited to start new semester-long classes, especially if they were beginning a study.
  • WHS students are busy as ever as they are fully involved in school work, sports, and clubs.
  • Notably, seniors who applied to college have begun to hear from schools and are excited for their futures.
  • Last week marked the halfway point of the winter sports’ regular seasons.
  • This year, all teams have seen remarkable success, congratulations to all teams.
  • Notably, the girls’ basketball team is at the top of their league.
  • Last week, the girls track teams set two school records in the 4 x 50 relay and the 4 x 200 relay with the same team. The 4 x 200 time also qualified them for nationals!
  • Clubs have not allowed rising COVID cases over the past few weeks to inhibit their activities! Many clubs met virtually after winter break, but are now back to meeting in person and are as busy as ever!
  • Speech and Debate continues to attend meets, including last weekend’s Lexington Winter Invitational where the team saw great success!
  • Also, Mock Trial competed in their first meet on Tuesday.
  • Other clubs continue to plan activities and fundraisers!

History Curriculum Update

History Update - Mr. Michael Donahue, History Department Chair, provided the School Committee with a history curriculum update. This presentation can be viewed here at time marker 1:00:05.

FY '23 Budget

The School Committee voted on an FY '23 initial budget in the amount of $51,514,775.

COVID Update/Superintendent Report

Dr. Gough and Nurse Kathi Garvin provided a COVID update. The most recent COVID-19 data for Walpole shows a 20.59% positivity rate. There were 118 positive cases last week and as of this morning 175 positive cases reported this week. Cases are updated every weekend and can be found on the WPS COVID Data Dashboard, which also includes the Massachusetts Weekly Public Health Report. The following is the current student vaccination rates for the high school and middle schools:

Walpole High School – 83.91%

Bird Middle School – 65.69%

Johnson Middle School – 65.58%

On January 10th, DESE Commissioner Riley announced that the mask mandate requirements will be extended until Monday, February 28. The Department will continue to work with medical experts and state health officials to evaluate the mask requirements. Additionally, per order of Walpole’s Town Administrator, masks are required in all town buildings until further notice.

On January 18, 2022, Governor Baker and DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley announced a new Covid testing initiative. As a result of this announcement and in accordance with DESE and the Department of Public Health (DPH), WPS is updating our COVID-19 Testing Program. School districts currently participating in Test-to-Stay programs are eligible for staff and students to receive home testing kits. This at-home testing program will increase testing of our participating students and staff regardless of vaccination status. Staff and students will test one day a week (Tuesday morning) before coming to school. As part of this shift in the program, per DESE, once the program begins, we are discontinuing Test-to-Stay and contact tracing for in-school close contacts. However, in-school symptomatic testing will still continue. This new at-home testing opportunity is voluntary, and only those who opt-in will receive tests. Earlier this week, families received a detailed email with a link to the online opt-in form. If you are unable to retrieve this email, please contact your building principal. Principals will communicate how the test kits will be distributed at each level (elementary, middle, and high school).

The School Committee voted (4-3) to lift the WHS mask mandate for vaccinated staff and students. The approved plan involves vaccinated students and staff being provided with the option to unmask in Walpole High School as long as the town's positive rate is below 3% . This plan was developed after WHS received a waiver from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education due to over 80% of students and staff in the building being vaccinated.

Kindergarten registration for the 2022-2023 school year is underway. Registration instructions and materials have been mailed to all incoming Kindergarten families. Families should pre-register online and bring all required materials to their neighborhood school through January 28. If parents are unable to drop off materials during the day because of work and other commitments, the Superintendent's office is open on Mondays and Wednesdays until 5:30 p.m. and Tuesday evenings until 8:00 p.m. To find out more about registration, click here.

WPS will be initiating an Equity Audit Report with Mass Insight Education & Research to better understand the ways in which systems, structures, policies, and practices impact WPS students, staff, and families. Mass Insight Education & Research is a nonprofit organization whose commitment to equity is grounded in the belief that all students can achieve when provided with high-quality education and the support needed to reach and exceed common expectations. The audit also aligns with the WPS Strategic Plan.

Middle School Building Project

Mr. Breen indicated that the School Building Committee is scheduled to meet next Tuesday, February 1, 2022. The School Building Committee Meeting will be updated with respect to additional site surveys performed, programming meetings as well as exterior and interior materials design. Mr. Breen indicated small group meetings have been held where discussions pertained to sewer and water, fire hydrants as well as parking and traffic during construction. Lastly, he said a Community Forum is tentatively scheduled for the middle of February. He encouraged abutters and community to get involved.

Any questions or comments can be sent via email to the Middle School Project at