WPS Covid 19 Updates

A Message for Dr. Gough

February 12, 2021


Dear WPS Community,


While Groundhog’s Day is not a scientific forecast of weather, Punxsutawney Phil may have gotten it right this year when he predicted 6 more weeks of winter. Fortunately this week, the Walpole DPW and our custodian crews were able to clear the roads, parking lots, and school sidewalks so we could safely open our schools. When there is any chance of inclement weather, I monitor the weather forecasts and receive timely information from public safety, DPW, and school operations staff to assess school and road conditions. Your children’s safety is always my first priority. As you know, New England storms are not always easy to predict, but I appreciate your patience as we make decisions about keeping schools open, having an official snow day, or whether a remote day is more appropriate.


This week our 2nd grade students started a four day in-person schedule. Making this transition midyear can be challenging for educators and caregivers alike, but I am grateful to all stakeholders who have helped make this transition smooth. Many families have inquired about our plans once teachers are fully vaccinated. We continue to work with the Walpole Board of Health, district administrators, our health staff, and the teachers union to be prepared once we receive more guidance from the state and CDC. The school district will communicate our plans when more information becomes available. Our goal is to increase in-person learning when we can do so safely.


As you know, February is Black History Month. Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Our schools have planned many events, lessons, and displays to recognize the incredible contributions of African Americans in our history. I have included just some highlights below:


  • At the elementary level, Digital Learning Coaches have created a Black History Month website of information, activities, and lesson ideas for our teachers to access and implement in the classroom.

  • The Walpole Multicultural Book Initiative has ensured that we have new books for elementary students that represent more diverse characters, authors and plots.

  • Our elementary Music and Art classes will be introducing African American artists in their classroom lessons.

  • Our media centers are promoting many great titles celebrating Black History Month.

  • All Elm and full remote students had a presentation by Crocodile River Music. This fantastic African Arts in Education program presented their interactive dance workshop to each grade starting with a Live Art Studio Tour.

  • The Cultural Inclusivity Committee, made up of students and staff from the middle school, continue to meet to identify additional opportunities to celebrate Black History Month. As well as, ways to apply those ideas in creating a series of awareness activities and programs about other marginalized groups beyond February.

  • Middle school staff and students have created displays about accomplished Black Americans on their doors and outside their classrooms. In addition, students produced slideshows highlighting the contributions of prominent Black Americans which have been made available to teachers and are being shown during HRs.

  • Teachers have created mini-lessons in ELA and Social Studies that showcase the varied contributions Black Americans have made to the history and culture of the United States and around the globe.

  • The high school lobby and social studies wing is filled with beautiful displays celebrating Black History.

  • Classes at the high school will continue to participate in the Black History Month Research Biography Poster assignment that was created several years ago by WHS staff. Student submissions will be on display on the 3rd floor of the high school throughout the month.


While celebrating Black History Month is a priority for Walpole Public Schools, our goal is to celebrate the contributions of African Americans everyday as part of our daily curriculum and lesson planning.


Travel Reminder

With the February break approaching, please be reminded of Governor Baker's Travel Order. All visitors entering Massachusetts are required to produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72 hours prior to arrival in Massachusetts. If for some reason, 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 quarantine has been completed. Please visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-travel-order if you have any questions.


Middle School Building Project

Since my last update the Walpole School Building Committee (WSBC) has evaluated the conceptual design options and voted on a preferred solution at the Bird Middle School site. For further information, please visit the Project’s website, that is conveniently linked at www.walpole.k12.ma.us, to view FAQs, presentations, monthly reports, project summary, and videos. To find out more information on the MSBA process, please visit the MSBA website at www.masschoolbuilding.org. Have a question or comment? Email us at middleschoolproject@walpole.k12.ma.us


I hope our students and families find time to rest and relax over the February break. Don’t forget that Sunday is Valentine’s day, a great day to celebrate those we love.


Bridget A. Gough, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

A Message from Dr. Gough

January 15, 2021


Dear WPS Community,


This week’s DPH COVID-19 Report indicated that the town of Walpole is rated red for its sixth week (7.04 % positivity rate). It is important to note that school plans are not directly tied to the color designation. The District’s focus is on cases and transmission within a building or buildings. The Board of Health will continue to work closely with the school department to advise on any future school building closures if necessary. At this time, there is no change to our schools or model. Please know, however, that this is a fluid situation, and we are prepared to change as warranted. As you know, we continue to implement important preventative practices including the CDC’s recommendation of physical distancing, mask-wearing, and good hand hygiene. You can view the WPS COVID Metrics on the district webpage which is updated at the end of each week.


Several families have asked what our plan is when our teachers are fully vaccinated. This is a fair and valid question that we have been discussing at the district level for the last several weeks. I am grateful for the collaborative relationship the school department has with the Walpole Board of Health and I am confident that as we have a better understanding of the vaccine rollout and timeline, we will understand the implication this has on our learning model. We will provide more information when we receive guidance from the state about the vaccine and its impact on health and safety in schools.


Walpole staff has done a tremendous amount of work to get us to where we are and they are to be commended. We were one of the first districts to open and (with the exception of preschool in September) we haven’t closed or moved away from our hybrid model. WPS has also seen an increase in synchronous instruction at both the middle and high schools and we continue to bring students back into our classrooms on a weekly basis. There is amazing work going on in our classrooms.


I appreciate your patience as our Leadership Team continues to work collaboratively with the Board of Health, School Committee, and Walpole Teacher’s Union. Please know, our decisions must be thoughtful and deliberate and I am fully committed to doing what is best for our education community. If you would like to view my full comments at last night’s School Committee Meeting, you can access them here (timestamp: 1:33-1:44).


New Quarantine Guidelines (1/09/21)

In December, the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) shortened their quarantine guidelines for close contacts from a 10-day quarantine with testing on day 8 to testing on day 5 with a 7-day quarantine. Since that time we have had a number of individuals initially identified as close contacts who have completed their 7-day quarantine and returned to school on day 8 subsequently develop symptoms and test positive. These individuals typically developed their symptoms between day 8 and day 11. These individuals were back at school and in close contact with our students and staff while contagious. Although the state has shortened the quarantine time based on the evidence that the majority of individuals who are close contacts will test positive by day 5, it is important to remember that once exposed to the virus an individual can develop symptoms up to day 14.


Currently, our community is experiencing a significant increase in the number of positive COVID cases. After consulting with the Walpole Public Health Department, the Walpole Public Schools will be reverting to the previous quarantine guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. With this additional mitigating factor of the extra days of quarantine, we are hopeful of a decrease in the number of potential close contacts and the number of positive cases in our community.


Beginning January 10, 2021, the following quarantine guidelines will be in effect for all students and staff in the Walpole Public Schools:

  • All individuals who are identified as close contacts must quarantine for at least 14 days from the date of the last exposure or at least 10 days, provided all of the following are satisfied:

    • The individual has not had any symptoms;

    • The individual has been tested on day 8 of their quarantine or later using a molecular diagnostic test (also known as a PCR) to detect the presence of the virus:

    • The individual has received confirmation of a negative test result; and

    • The individual continues to monitor for symptoms for the full fourteen days. If the individual develops symptoms they must quarantine again and be re-tested for the COVID virus.

Survey

In the coming days, families will receive 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. Please note this survey is similar to the one that was given in October. At the start of the survey, you will be asked if you took the October survey. This is important because this will help us with benchmarking and comparing these results to those in October.


Flu Vaccine (new update 1/15/21)

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is removing the requirement for flu vaccination for attendance in childcare/preschool, primary, secondary and postsecondary education. Preliminary data show that this has been a mild flu season to date, presumably as people have received their seasonal flu vaccine and have been adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing due to COVID-19.DPH continues to strongly recommend that everyone age six months and older receive their seasonal flu vaccine each year.


Middle School Building Project

My last update stated that the Walpole School Building Committee (WSBC) voted to support a consolidated middle school. Since then, WBSC has been evaluating the conceptual design options for a consolidated middle school. The WSBC will evaluate several options: a new building on the Bird site, addition/renovation to the existing BMS building, and one general new building concept for the Johnson site. The project must narrow the options to one “preferred solution” and submit it to the MSBA for review and approval by the end of February 2021. A Community Forum will be held Wednesday, January 20th @ 7:00 p.m. For further information, please visit the Project’s website at www.walpole.k12.ma.us to view FAQs, presentations, monthly reports, project summary, and videos. To find out more information on the MSBA process, please visit the MSbvideos. To find out more information on the MSBA process, please visit the MSBA website at www.masschoolbuilding.org. Have a question or comment? Email us at middleschoolproject@walpole.k12.ma.us


Stay healthy and safe,


Bridget A. Gough, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

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