Superintendent's Update

October 22, 2020


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Our Transition to Hybrid

Good afternoon Watertown Families,

The State released the weekly COVID-19 metrics today, which indicate that Watertown remains in the ‘yellow’ status, our positivity rate is low, and therefore we will be crossing the Bridge to Hybrid at the elementary level beginning on Tuesday, October 27 for our Cohort A students and Wednesday, October 28 for our Cohort B students. We are also considering moving our Watertown Middle School students from remote to hybrid beginning the week of November 9, based on continued monitoring of the data and the school’s readiness. The Watertown High School transition to hybrid remains on November 30.

Your child(ren)'s principal will provide more detailed updates in their upcoming newsletters and communications, including start and dismissal times, entry and exit procedures, transportation and drop-off/pick-up procedures, and any other necessary protocols for moving to hybrid. For those students currently learning in the schools, your principal or teacher will share any schedule modifications as we bring our Bridge to Hybrid students into school.

For the past five weeks, Watertown Public Schools adapted and adjusted to reopening in the midst of a health crisis that has seriously impacted teaching and learning. Our teachers and staff are working tirelessly to provide students with appropriate and engaging learning opportunities, remotely for the majority of our students, with our 330 students in specialized programs coming into schools for support services and learning, supported by over 180 teaches and staff members. We have seen many successes and worked to mitigate any challenges, continuously learning along the way. As we have consistently stated, our ultimate goal is to provide learning opportunities in our schools when it is safe to do so, and based on today’s assessment, we are pleased to welcome back our elementary students in grades K - 5 in our hybrid model next week.

Our teachers, staff, and administrators have been preparing for this day by setting up classrooms; labeling entrances, exits, and hallways; measuring distance among the desks; procuring PPE; and generally getting ready for teaching in a fundamentally different way. We welcomed our students with high needs into our buildings to provide additional support and services, and learned from this experience that our students adapt well to our new circumstances and are ready to return to the schools in-person, understanding that this year is different. What we see is that our students are taking the necessary steps and precautions to keep themselves--- and their friends/teachers--- safe. Our fine custodial staff have developed a cleaning protocol according to CDC standards and continue to work diligently to keep our buildings safe and clean. And each of our elementary classrooms has an air purifier to keep the air clean.

A few essential reminders: All children must have masks and wear them at all times (in the classroom, in the hallways, in the bathrooms, and even outside), except during scheduled mask breaks. Every morning, you must assess if your child has any COVID-19 symptoms and if so, keep your child at home and call the school. Take time this weekend to review the COVID-19 Handbook Addendum which includes the list of symptoms and safety protocols, and reach out to your principal if you have any questions.

It has been quite a journey over the past several months, and I know that we still have a ways to go. I appreciate your support and I understand that there are many opinions about school reopening. What I know for sure is that we all want what’s best for our children- parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and community members.

I will be holding a Reopening Forum next Tuesday evening at 6:00 via Zoom for anyone interested in an update about how our first day went and to learn about next steps. Please also look for my October newsletter next week.

With great appreciation,

Dede Galdston, Superintendent of Schools