WPS Covid 19 Updates

A Message from Dr. Gough

November 13, 2020


Dear Walpole Public Schools Community,


With the Thanksgiving and December breaks approaching, please be reminded of Governor Baker's Travel Order. All visitors entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, who do not meet one of the state’s exemptions and have traveled to a high-risk state (or from international travel) are required to produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72 hours prior to arrival in Massachusetts. If you are unable to be tested prior to leaving the higher-risk state, you must arrange to be tested within 24 hours of your return to Massachusetts. Please turn in any negative test results to your building’s School Nurse. While waiting for test results, your child must remain at home under quarantine and not return to school until a negative test can be produced or the 14-day quarantine has been completed.


Currently (11/13/20), there are 7 states which have been classified as lower-risk. All remaining states are at higher risk. The 7 lower-risk states are District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington. Please continue to check the following website frequently for updated information:https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-travel-order#lower-risk-states-.



Governor’s Press Conference:

During the past several days, many superintendents have expressed concerns with the Governor’s press conference on Friday, November 6th, when the metrics were changed. The Governor set expectations that schools in communities designated as grey, green, or yellow return student learning fully, in person, if feasible. Clearly, the words “if feasible” are key to any possible return of in-person options.


The press conference also solicited some questions from our school community. Fortunately, we were able to get our Kindergarten students in 4 days per week, but due to space constraints, other than our high-needs population, we have been unable to have additional grade levels attend full in-person learning. While the goal is certainly to get students back into school full-time, the notion of doing so at this point presents a number of challenges. Very simply, using minimal in-school transmission of the COVID-19 virus as the sole criterion to favor full-time, in-person learning leaves a host of other issues unaddressed. It is also a multi-tiered and collaborative decision-making process between the Health Department, DESE, and the school department based on the information and resources available.


While superintendents have been strong advocates for as much in school learning as possible, there are several realities that require the Governor’s help before these months of planning can be altered. Superintendents across Massachusetts would welcome any statewide efforts to address these issues that are beyond a local community’s power to impact. With that assistance and support, we look forward to the time when more in-school learning is both feasible and achievable. However, due to the most recent guidance, WPS will continue to evaluate our current model for our students, while still meeting important educational and safety standards.


Like many of you, I struggle with the limited in-person learning of our students. This has been difficult for educators, families, and students alike. I appreciate your patience as our Leadership Team continues to work collaboratively with the Board of Health, School Committee, and Walpole Teacher’s Union. We expect to make incremental changes in enrollment as we move forward. This will be a thoughtful and collaborative process.


Snow Days

Now that we will soon be entering the winter season, you may be wondering if snow days will be different during the pandemic. First, as a reminder, the Superintendent of Schools is responsible for the final decision, based on various weather-related factors and information received from the Department of Public Works. This year, due to our hybrid and remote learning models, the Commissioner of Education indicated that he will allow us, instead of canceling school due to inclement weather or other unforeseen natural events, we may call a district-wide "remote learning day." This day will count as a day of school and all students will be expected to log on to technology to receive remote instruction and assignments. If there are extensive power outages in the Town of Walpole, the school system will call a weather outage and the day will have to be made up in June. Since school opened, Walpole Public School teachers have been preparing for the possible need to revert to remote instruction. We will apply this preparation to snow days as well.


In the event of school cancellation OR delayed opening, a recorded phone message will be sent to each family's primary phone contact through our telephone notification system. In addition, announcements will be carried by television stations Channel 4, 5, 7, and Fox 25. A message will also be posted on the Walpole Public Schools website.


Middle School Building project

Thank you to those who have been able to attend our Zoom meetings to listen to information about the middle school building project, ask questions, and provide feedback. A Community Forum will be held on Tuesday, November 24th at 7:00 p.m. Please join us for a project update and continued discussion regarding this exciting opportunity for Walpole. Click here to view the flyer. Please register in advance for this webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_OudLAkeRTkyzMjmdgRG_CQ

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


WHS Tech Help Desk Website

We are pleased to announce a new high school Tech Help Desk website designed by Poul Holm, our high school student Help Desk Technician. This site features tips and tricks using Chromebooks and other Google apps and provides a link for students to report Chromebook repair requests. Poul also has included a Coding page for those interested in exploring this up and coming field and area of study. We hope this website is helpful, and welcome your feedback or suggestions on other topics to include, or questions you may have. Well done, Poul!


Stay healthy and safe,


Bridget A. Gough, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

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A Message from Dr. Gough

October 23, 2020


Dear Walpole Public Schools Community,


We are now into our sixth week of hybrid and remote learning. Over the past weeks, I have had the pleasure of visiting classrooms, students, and teachers. After so much time without face-to-face interaction with students and staff, it has been wonderful to see these classes in action. I continue to be impressed with the adaptability of our students and teachers. They continue to learn and adjust with incredible perseverance, grit, and determination. Thank you for all of the continued support as we continue in these models. We appreciate that everyone, including our families and community members, is working together to make the very best of the current situation.


As a district, our goal is to continue to improve which is why community feedback is so important. To achieve this goal, families will be receiving a survey through the X2 portal. This survey will provide us with valuable feedback about the opening of schools, the health and safety of our students, and important information about student learning. We are committed to being reflective as we progress through this process.



COVID-19

In past weeks, we have seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases here in town and in the schools. As a community, we are still in the yellow, however, other communities have gone in the other direction. Please continue your increased vigilance when it comes to maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, and washing/sanitizing your hands.


Since the school year started on September 14, there have been two positive cases at the high school, one case at Johnson Middle School, and three cases at Daniel Feeney Preschool. Please be reminded that when there is a positive case, a notification will go out to that school community once all close contacts have been notified. We continue to work closely with the Board of Health and our nursing staff to follow protocol.


GoFundMe/Rebranding Donations

In support of the recent School Committee decision to replace the Rebel name, fundraising began this summer through various efforts, including a GoFundMe account initiated by a high school student. Unfortunately, due to timing issues related to a fairly complicated GoFundMe transfer process, the funds were not transferred to the School Department and instead were returned to the donors. It is important to note that this unfortunate situation was not the result of any error on the student’s part who actually took the initiative and a call to action. This was a significant setback to a well-intentioned fundraising effort that had strong support from the community. The School Committee and School Business Office have worked together to provide an alternative method for making donations. This new process ensures the funds donated go directly to the School Department and are readily available for purchases (uniforms, etc.) related to the rebranding. Going forward, individuals interested in making a donation can send a check made payable to the Town of Walpole, with “Sports Rebranding” referenced on the check. Checks should be mailed to Walpole Public Schools, 135 School Street, Walpole, MA 02081. A charitable donation letter will be provided (upon request) for your personal records or for any matching corporate gift.


Walpole School Nutrition: How to help both the community and our district.

As many of you are aware, the USDA has announced that all meals for children and teens will be free for the entire 2020/21 school year. All students are encouraged to participate in school meal service regardless of income status. Participation in school meal programs makes the school nutrition department more financially viable, allowing for meal variety and higher meal quality. Eating school meals helps the community and the school. Please encourage the students and families that you work with to participate!


Extended Day: Spots for Extended Day and the Remoter Day Supervision Program are still available. Please email Devin Clifford, Program Director at DClifford@walpole.k12.ma.us if you are interested or have questions.


Middle School Building Project

As you are aware, in November 2019, The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) invited the Town of Walpole into its Feasibility Study program for the Bird Middle School. As part of the study, the MSBA also allowed Walpole to study a potential consolidation of the District’s total student enrollment for grades 6-8. In conjunction with the MSBA, the Town selected Compass Project Management, Inc. as the Owner’s Project Management (OPM) firm and Tappe Architects as the Architectural Design firm for the project. To help assure an inclusive, open, and transparent process, we will continue to hold community forums to discuss the vision and priorities for identifying the most educationally appropriate and cost-effective option for the Town. Preliminary options will include several that only address Bird Middle School and several that include consolidating the two middle schools in a new space located at one of the existing middle school sites. One of the first priorities is to determine whether or not a consolidated enrollment option is in the best interests of the Town and District. Overall, we will vet all feasible options over the next few months, with the goal of deciding on the Preferred Option in February of 2021. As part of this effort, we are actively soliciting your feedback. Information about this project can be found at WPS Building Project. Questions or feedback can be sent to middleschoolproject@walpole.k12.ma.us


As I have stated in prior communications, we are prepared to work collaboratively, learn from our experiences, and continue to improve as an educational community. We will ensure that our students are supported socially, emotionally, and academically; but this school year will require us to be more patient, flexible, and creative than ever before. We are up for the challenge and grateful for your partnership in the work.


Stay healthy and safe,


Bridget A. Gough, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

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