School Committee Meeting Summary

February 10, 2022

Moment of Silence

The School Committee held a moment of silence in honor of former Walpole teacher Mrs. Lois Jennings. The School Committee and administration send their heartfelt condolences to the Jennings family.

Walpole High School Student Report

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

  • Term 2 reports cards were released last week.
  • Term 3 has begun, and we are into the second half of this year.
  • This past Tuesday began the COVID testing program. Students who opted in were given their first set of home antigen tests. Students will administer the self-test Tuesday evening this week and Monday evenings going forward.
  • Tests will be given out to students every other Monday during lunch in the main lobby.
  • All positive results must be reported to the school nurse immediately.
  • Thursday night the Walpole High School Counseling Office hosted an in person Junior Family Night. All juniors and their parents/guardians were invited to hear the College Admissions Panel presentation.
  • The Mock Trial Team finished their season this week. This young team found some success and is hopeful to get back in a real courtroom next year.
  • The Speech and Debate Team had students participate in the NSDA qualifiers this weekend.
  • The PM Club is headed for a tour of Fenway Park tomorrow night.
  • As Winter Sports are nearing the end of their seasons, senior nights are underway to thank our seniors for their participation and leadership on our sports teams.
  • Last week the girls’ hockey team had their annual ALS Awareness Game to benefit “4 You I Will Fight.”
  • Friday night the Boys’ hockey team will host the 2nd Annual Boys Hockey Pre-Prom Showcase Fashion Show. It will be held at the Italian American Club, 109 Stone Street at 7:00 pm.

Special Education Update

Special Education Update - Dr. John Queally, Director of Student Services, provided the School Committee with a Special Education update. Dr. Queally gave a review of all in-district programs, professional development for staff and the recent middle school program review. The program review focused on inclusion based services. As part of the review, auditors completed two weeks of observations, interviews and a review of special education demographic data. Dr. Queally also spoke about a recent DESE update with respect to indicators for success for students with disabilities. Walpole received updated data this week. Indicators include graduation rate, dropout rate, inclusion rate, disability rates for students of color and discipline rates. All districts are categories into four groups based on any need or intervention. Walpole placed in the highest category of "Meeting Requirements." Dr. Queally remarked that this is due to our dedicated and highly qualified staff.

COVID Update/Mask Mandate

Dr. Gough and Nurse Kathi Garvin provided a COVID update. The most recent COVID-19 data for Walpole shows a 10% positivity rate that is steadily declining. There were 76 WPS positive cases last week and as of this morning 22 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.

DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, announced that the statewide school mask mandate will not be renewed after it expires on Monday, Feb. 28. Based on high vaccination rates and the widespread availability of COVID-19 testing for school staff and students, DESE reverted masking policies back to a local decision. Dr. Gough, in consultation with the Town Health Director and School Nurse Leader, recommended rescinding the mask policy on February 28th.

The School Committee voted 7-0-0 to rescind the mask policy, effective Monday, February 28. Masking will be optional for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, at all WPS school buildings. Walpole High School has already met the DESE waiver requirements, therefore masking will be optional for Walpole High School students and staff beginning Monday, February 14. Dr. Gough reiterated that any individual who wishes to continue to mask, including those who face higher risk from COVID-19, must be supported in that choice.

The federal order requiring masks on school buses remains in effect. Masks are also required in all health offices. At this time, we are awaiting additional guidance from Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association regarding masking during after-school sports.

WPS will continue with our mitigation strategies. Along with DESE and DPH, we continue to urge all eligible individuals to receive the vaccine and booster. We will continue with vaccination clinics. Other mitigations include participating in our COVID-19 testing program, maintaining good hand hygiene practices, and staying home when sick. Masks will be made available to staff and students. Those who have COVID-19 symptoms, or identified as a close contact, or test positive for COVID-19 should contact their school nurse for information related to quarantine or testing protocols. It is highly recommended that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear masks in school settings. Public health data will continue to be monitored as well as consultations with medical experts and state health officials to issue further guidance and/or requirements as needed.

The next clinic for 5 - 11 year olds is on Saturday, February 12 from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Old Town Hall (Former Walpole Police Station): 980 Main Street

Pre-registration Link

Please enter through the side door (Stone Street side), closest to the Fire Station. Use stairs or the elevator to go to the first floor.

Contact the Walpole Board of Health at 508-660-7300 ext. 133 for more information.

Superintendent Report

Dr. Gough indicated a Zoom Strategic Planning Meeting is scheduled for March 8, 2022. At this meeting we review the District's progress toward achieving the goals, objectives, and action steps outlined in the Strategic Plan. School staff, educational leaders, town board members, students, parents, and community members are actively engaged in this review and provide a variety of perspectives. This Plan prioritizes actions the District will pursue in order to improve the academic and social-emotional skills of all students.

Dr. Gough reminded the community about possible snow days. The Superintendent of Schools is ultimately responsible for the final decision to cancel school based on various weather-related factors and information received from the Department of Public Works. In the event of school cancellation or delayed opening, a recorded phone message will be sent to each family's primary phone contact, broadcasted through Channels 4, 5, 7, and Fox 25, Twitter, Facebook and posted on the Walpole Public Schools website as well as an email sent to all families.

Although our students are better served by being in school, our top priority is their safety. She realizes that the decision to open or close schools in bad weather has a major impact on families. If it is absolutely clear we are going to get the snow jackpot, schools can be canceled the night before. If there is a chance we might be able to have school the next day, the final decision has to wait until the morning. She reminded the community that DESE will not allow any district-wide remote learning days to replace a snow day, and therefore, any snow days will need to be made up in June.

Middle School Building Project

Mr. Breen indicated that the School Building Committee is scheduled to meet next Tuesday, February 15, 2022. The project is now at the point where details and colored images of the of the building are taking shape. There are on-going meetings to discuss color, materials, texture and quality. Mr. Breen encouraged people to pay attention and watch the School Building Committee meeting Tuesday for more information.

A virtual Community Forum is being planned for March. Further information will be forthcoming regarding details of this Forum as soon as possible.

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

Big picture