Superintendent's Update

March 2, 2022


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In this Update...

  • Great News for the Watertown High School Building Project!

  • WPS COVID Metrics and Mask-Wearing Update

  • COVID Tests for All Students & Staff Members

Great News for the Watertown High School Building Project!

Today, the Board of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has voted to approve the Watertown High School Project in the City of Watertown to replace the existing Watertown High School with a new facility serving grades 9-12 on the existing site. The Board approved a facilities grant of approximately $44.2 million dollars to assist with the construction of the new building.

We are beyond grateful for the opportunity that the MSBA is providing for the children in Watertown for many generations to come. In partnership with the MSBA, we will provide a learning environment that not only is fiscally responsible and educationally appropriate, but also is a model for energy efficiency, responsible global citizenship, and climate stewardship that will influence and inspire our children's lives well into their future. Watertown's commitment to high-quality education for our students in PreK through post-12 will prepare them for a future that we can't even imagine. Thank you, Watertown and the MSBA!

WPS COVID Metrics and Mask-Wearing Updates

Based on our pool testing and parent/staff reporting, we only have six known active COVID cases in the district. We are pleased to have such a dramatic drop in the number of cases present in our school populations, as previously the numbers of COVID cases have spiked after vacations. This is a strong sign that the prevalence of COVID is trending in the right direction.

On Monday, March 7, I will be recommending the following metrics to the School Committee and if the numbers continue through the next round of testing, masks may be optional as of Wednesday, March 9. I will communicate any changes before Wednesday.

After weighing the various measures available to the District when making decisions about mask-wearing (whether they are required or optional), together with the Health Team in WPS and with support from the Watertown Health Department, we will be recommending the use of the following metrics to the School Committee on March 7th for use when considering removing or adding mitigations strategies, such as mask-wearing.

Vaccination rates

  • Ideally 80% but at least 70% for all students 5 and up

  • Currently, we have reached this target in Watertown

CDC COVID-19 Community Levels

This past Friday, the CDC updated its guidance and metrics for mask-wearing, designating communities at Low, Medium, and High Levels for COVID (see Chart for more information about these metrics). For our purposes, this means:

  • Low and Medium levels: Mask wearing is optional
  • High Levels: Masks are required
  • Currently, the level in Middlesex County is Low

Community COVID cases and positivity rates

New cases per 100,000 in the past 7 days

  • Low Risk: 0-9.9 indicates Mask wearing optional

  • Medium Risk: 10.0-49.9 indicates Mask wearing optional

  • High Risk: 50 or more- indicates Mask wearing recommended/required

  • Currently, the risk is medium

Percent of positive tests
  • Low Risk: less than 5%- Mask wearing optional

  • Medium: 5%-7.9%- Mask wearing optional

  • High Risk: 8% or higher- Mask wearing recommended/required

  • Currently, the risk is low

The number of students/staff with COVID

  • Please see the attached document outlining when local numbers in school indicate masks should be worn in classrooms or by the whole school

  • Currently, no classrooms or schools would require mask-wearing

Vulnerable student and staff populations

  • Reasonable accommodations are provided for students and staff when needed

  • Students who are immunocompromised should discuss mask-wearing and appropriate accommodations with their medical provider

  • Any requests for accommodations above personal mask-wearing should be provided to the Director of Student Services, Kathy Desmarais at 617 926 7766 or

Participation in at-home antigen testing

  • At least 50% of students participate in at-home testing

  • Watertown is currently past that percentage

Every week on Monday, the District will post a color-coded dashboard with the pertinent metrics to provide families with information about the prevalence of COVID in our community and in our schools. Last week's metrics can be found here. Please note that any decision to move away from or back to mask-wearing will be made in consideration of all of these metrics combined.

Thank you for your continued collaboration and support throughout this pandemic.

COVID Tests for All

As you are aware, we have adopted the state’s new testing program, which includes one take-home test per week, in addition to weekly pooled testing and symptomatic testing.

This week, we are able to send home a set of tests for all students and staff, regardless of whether they have already opted into the state program.

  • Students (and staff members) will be given the tests to bring home tomorrow.
  • If you do not plan to use the tests that are given, simply send them back with your student for drop off in the school's main office, and we will reallocate those resources.
This surplus is due to the purchasing of COVID tests by the district prior to DESE announcing its state-funded program.

Next week, tests will be distributed to staff and students who opted into the state program only. If you have not yet opted in, please do so using this online form.