Coronavirus Updates from WPS

Update Center

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Welcome to the Watertown Public Schools Urgent News Update Center, a dedicated space on our district website designed to keep parents, staff, and the entire Watertown Public Schools community informed about the potential effect of the Coronavirus.

The Update Center serves as an ongoing reliable resource for the entire school community, demonstrating proactive and transparent access to critical information. We will continue to update this with news and information as it becomes available. It is our mission to keep you informed on how we are preparing to cope with Coronavirus and any other potential health-related or time-critical topics. We hope you'll find it useful.

Information Links for COVID-19:


June 26, 2020

Link to Smore for Translation

Dear WPS families and staff, 

I hope today finds you well and that you are enjoying the beginning of the summer break. I am writing to you with an update on the School Opening planning for fall 2020 and with information about continued meal distribution throughout the summer.

Initial State Guidelines for Reopening Schools

On June 25, Governor Baker’s office and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released their initial guidance about reopening schools this fall. The goal of the guidance is the safe return of as many students as possible to in-person school settings to best meet their academic, social, and emotional needs. DESE is using current medical research that supports a safe in-person return to school - with preventive measures in place. Over the coming summer weeks, our WPS Reopening Task Force, whose composition includes teachers, support staff, parents, and administrators, will meet weekly to review the guidance and determine our plans.  For an overview of the guidance, please see the press release that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education distributed yesterday. 

While the initial guidelines do not address every topic that needs to be considered for reopening, there will be additional guidance from the Commissioner of Education throughout the summer.  At this time, we are required to develop three separate plans - one for return to full in-person instruction using the established safety requirements contained in the guidance document, one for full remote learning, and one for hybrid learning that combines in-person and remote learning.  As we get closer to the opening of school, we will implement the plan that makes the most sense for WPS based on the information that is available at that time.  

There is much to consider over the summer, and we will continue to keep our WPS community informed as information becomes available.  I will send out updates periodically throughout the summer, and I will provide information at the summer School Committee meetings, which will be held on the following dates: July 13, July 27, and August 24.  If you have specific questions during the summer, please send them to our dedicated email address: 2020reopening@watertown.k12.ma.us.  

Food Service Over the Summer 

Breakfast and lunch are available for students throughout the summer through the WPS School Nutrition Program.  Next week, pick up is on Monday and Wednesday, June 29, and July 1, in the WHS parking lot from 11:00-1:00  Starting on July 7, meals will be available on Tuesday and Friday from 11:00-1:00 in the WHS parking lot.  Any Watertown family is welcome to take advantage of this offering.  

I have full faith and confidence that we will continue to provide the best educational experience for Watertown students as we consider and plan the fall return to school.

With kind regards, 

Dede Galdston, Ed.D.


April 21, 2020

Link to Smore for Translation:  https://www.smore.com/ngf2v

Good afternoon, WPS Families and Staff Members:

First and foremost, I hope you and your family are safe and healthy.  I know this is a challenging time for our students, families, and educators, and we are all doing our best to support each other during the extended school closure.  As always, I will keep you updated frequently as circumstances warrant it.

Governor Charlie Baker announced today that all schools in Massachusetts will be closed for the remainder of this school year.  Watertown Public Schools will continue to support students, staff members, and parents through its robust Extended Learning Plan through June 16. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will release guidance to districts at the end of this week and we will make any necessary adjustments to ensure that our students continue moving forward through the end of the school year.  With this announcement, we will continue to plan for keeping our students and staff healthy when we reopen and to ensure that we meet all of our children where they are academically once the Extended Learning Plan comes to an end.    

This news is particularly disappointing for all of our students who miss their teachers, their friends, and their school routine.  It is especially difficult for our seniors who have worked hard for the past 12 years to reach the finish line. The WHS administration and faculty are considering options to celebrate the accomplishments of our seniors. These celebrations will differ from what our seniors and their families traditionally anticipated, and we will do our best to honor them and their many achievements.  

One thing is certain: Watertown is a strong, resilient, and tight-knit community. Together we will adapt to this challenge, collaborate on solutions, and continue to strengthen our Extended Learning Plan in support of students and staff members’ continuous learning.  I am sure that we will be an even stronger community when we are able to open our doors once again.  Until then, stay strong and be well.

Kind regards,

Dede Galdston, Ed.D, Superintendent

April 9, 2020

Smore for Translation of email

Smore for Translation of Community Overview of Extended Learning Plan

Good Evening Watertown Public Schools Families and Staff:

I hope this email finds you and your family well and that the transition to Phase 2 of the WPS Extended Learning Plan has been productive.  This communication will be brief.  I am attaching the Community Overview of the Extended Learning Plan, which contains detailed information about remote learning, student services, online meeting etiquette, participation in online learning sessions, and additional information for your use during the COVID-19 closure.  We are also seeking your feedback about the Extended Learning Plan and April Vacation.

Brief 5-Question Survey:

I am requesting that you take a moment to fill out a five-question survey about your experiences with our remote learning plan.  Given the current circumstances that we find ourselves in, I also would like to hear from you as to what your preference is for April Vacation.  We can either continue with April Vacation or have school Tuesday, April 21 through Friday, April 24.  Monday, April 20, is a state holiday- Patriot’s Day.

Advantages and Disadvantages for Keeping April Vacation:

Advantages:

  • If we have April Vacation, we could potentially have more face time with students in June if school reopens. 
  • All of us have been working hard in this new remote learning world, and having a break would be beneficial to rest and recharge for the next eight weeks. 

Disadvantages: 

  • We have just started to establish Phase 2 routines and schedules, and having a break would disrupt these recently established routines.
  • If we have April Vacation, school doesn’t get out until Monday, June 22.  If we work through April Vacation, the last day could be Tuesday, June 16. 

Please fill out this survey by Saturday, April 11.  The School Committee will take up the question of April Vacation on Monday evening, and I will provide the members with feedback from this survey prior to the meeting. Any decision to change the calendar rests with the School Committee, based upon my recommendation.

Thank you in advance for your continued efforts to support your children, students, and each other during this period of physical isolation.  Your well-being and spirit are most important, and we are here to help you in whatever way we can.

Dede Galdston, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools

P.S. I have four children, all participating in remote learning. Two in eighth grade, a junior, and a freshman in college….I have deep empathy for all that you are doing!


April 3, 2020

Link to Smore for Translation: https://www.smore.com/p03ce

Good morning WPS Families and Staff Members:

We hope that this email finds your family navigating these difficult times well and that your children/students are beginning to adjust to remote learning.  As I’ve assured you in prior communications, our foremost priority is to maintain supportive connections between school staff, students, and families.

I want to provide you with important updates based on Governor Baker’s announcement to extend school closures until May 4 and the recommendations from the MA Commissioner of Education. WPS teachers and administrators have reviewed and revised our Extended Learning Plan for the coming weeks.  We recognize that this closure may be extended beyond May 4, and as such, a long-term extended learning plan is vital at this time to prevent regression and ensure the attainment of key grade-level concepts. 

The goal for Phase 2 of the WPS Extended Learning Plan

During the period of school closure through May 3, the goal for the Watertown Public Schools Extended Learning Plan is to: reinforce skills already taught this school year, apply and deepen these skills to prevent regression, catch students up to have all students starting at a similar place upon their return, and to prioritize new key concepts throughout the end of the year, especially at the secondary level, to the extent possible in an extended learning environment.  

Learning has its foundation in the relationships developed between learners and teachers, adults, and children. As such, there is no way to replicate this environment in a digital format in the middle of a pandemic during school closure. There is a wide variety of circumstances that our families and our staff find themselves in right now, and Phase 2 of our Extended Learning Plan is designed to balance moving instruction forward and maintaining the social and emotional health of students, staff, and families. The WPS Extended Learning Plan holds student connections, flexibility, resiliency, equity, and support at its core.  

Shifts in the Extended Learning Plan

The two significant shifts in the Plan include: increased interactive time with students and requiring students to participate in the learning provided to the extent that is possible.  Principals will send more information in their next newsletters, and your child’s teacher(s) will provide students and families with an updated schedule for class meetings early next week. Our planning team is determining methods to provide feedback and monitoring of student participation and learning that is more aligned with a remote learning environment and will apprise you when that is decided next week.  On a weekly basis, teachers will track participation during Community Meetings; Google Classroom and other online resources; office hours; and class check-ins. If technology presents a barrier to accessing remote learning, please contact your child’s principal, as we can assist you with technology access.  
 

Student Services

For our students with special needs, families can expect more individualized outreach from teachers and service providers to maintain and reinforce skills previously learned, as well as to make as much progress as feasible towards IEP goals during the school closure. We realize that this school closure is particularly challenging for our families of children with special needs, and we look forward to partnering with you to ensure all needs and concerns are addressed well. 

Our Director of Student Services, Kathleen Desmarais, will offer a live ‘Question & Answer’ opportunity during the regularly scheduled Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) meeting on Thursday, April 9, at 6:00 p.m.  Updates will be provided in a separate message from Ms. Desmarais, including a Zoom link to the SEPAC meeting. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher, principal, director at (kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us). Please also refer to the Massachusetts Department of Education’s most recent FAQ regarding special education. 

Virtual Meetings

Our teachers are engaging in remote professional learning today, exploring several strategies and technological tools to support student learning and engagement in the virtual world through the Zoom platform, facilitated by their professional peers. Zoom is one tool that we are using for virtual meetings, and we are following all protocols to ensure student privacy, given the recent incidents in the news. Examples include: requirement passwords, disabling screen sharing, utilizing the waiting room feature, and other safety protocols.  We encourage all parents/guardians to read the Remote Learning Notification for the Watertown Public Schools, which contains essential information regarding the use of virtual learning platforms.  

School Nutrition

The School Nutrition Department is distributing breakfast and lunch on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:00-1:00.  During these hours, meals for two days are supplied to any WPS family who can benefit from this service.  If you are not able to pick up meals at these times, please send an email to lunch_line@watertown.k12.ma.us.   Currently, the School Nutrition Department is providing meals to more than 100 students.  

For more information about the remote learning recommendations from DESE, the Commissioner of Education provided a letter to families in English and Spanish reviewing the recommendations. 

Be healthy and well,

Dede Galdston, Ed.D., Superintendent



March 25, 2020


WPS Closed Until May 4

Link to Smore Newsletter 

Link to Smore for Translation: https://www.smore.com/p03ce

Good morning WPS Families and Staff Members:

We hope that this email finds your family navigating these difficult times well and that your children/students are beginning to adjust to remote learning.  As I’ve assured you in prior communications, our foremost priority is to maintain supportive connections between school staff, students, and families.

I want to provide you with important updates based on Governor Baker’s announcement to extend school closures until May 4 and the recommendations from the MA Commissioner of Education. WPS teachers and administrators have reviewed and revised our Extended Learning Plan for the coming weeks.  We recognize that this closure may be extended beyond May 4, and as such, a long-term extended learning plan is vital at this time to prevent regression and ensure the attainment of key grade-level concepts. 

The goal for Phase 2 of the WPS Extended Learning Plan

During the period of school closure through May 3, the goal for the Watertown Public Schools Extended Learning Plan is to: reinforce skills already taught this school year, apply and deepen these skills to prevent regression, catch students up to have all students starting at a similar place upon their return, and to prioritize new key concepts throughout the end of the year, especially at the secondary level, to the extent possible in an extended learning environment.  

Learning has its foundation in the relationships developed between learners and teachers, adults, and children. As such, there is no way to replicate this environment in a digital format in the middle of a pandemic during school closure. There is a wide variety of circumstances that our families and our staff find themselves in right now, and Phase 2 of our Extended Learning Plan is designed to balance moving instruction forward and maintaining the social and emotional health of students, staff, and families. The WPS Extended Learning Plan holds student connections, flexibility, resiliency, equity, and support at its core.  

Shifts in the Extended Learning Plan

The two significant shifts in the Plan include: increased interactive time with students and requiring students to participate in the learning provided to the extent that is possible.  Principals will send more information in their next newsletters, and your child’s teacher(s) will provide students and families with an updated schedule for class meetings early next week. Our planning team is determining methods to provide feedback and monitoring of student participation and learning that is more aligned with a remote learning environment and will apprise you when that is decided next week.  On a weekly basis, teachers will track participation during Community Meetings; Google Classroom and other online resources; office hours; and class check-ins. If technology presents a barrier to accessing remote learning, please contact your child’s principal, as we can assist you with technology access.   

Student Services

For our students with special needs, families can expect more individualized outreach from teachers and service providers to maintain and reinforce skills previously learned, as well as to make as much progress as feasible towards IEP goals during the school closure. We realize that this school closure is particularly challenging for our families of children with special needs, and we look forward to partnering with you to ensure all needs and concerns are addressed well. 

Our Director of Student Services, Kathleen Desmarais, will offer a live ‘Question & Answer’ opportunity during the regularly scheduled Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) meeting on Thursday, April 9, at 6:00 p.m.  Updates will be provided in a separate message from Ms. Desmarais, including a Zoom link to the SEPAC meeting. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher, principal, director at (kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us). Please also refer to the Massachusetts Department of Education’s most recent FAQ regarding special education. 

Virtual Meetings

Our teachers are engaging in remote professional learning today, exploring several strategies and technological tools to support student learning and engagement in the virtual world through the Zoom platform, facilitated by their professional peers. Zoom is one tool that we are using for virtual meetings, and we are following all protocols to ensure student privacy, given the recent incidents in the news. Examples include: requirement passwords, disabling screen sharing, utilizing the waiting room feature, and other safety protocols.  We encourage all parents/guardians to read the Remote Learning Notification for the Watertown Public Schools, which contains essential information regarding the use of virtual learning platforms.  

School Nutrition

The School Nutrition Department is distributing breakfast and lunch on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:00-1:00.  During these hours, meals for two days are supplied to any WPS family who can benefit from this service.  If you are not able to pick up meals at these times, please send an email to lunch_line@watertown.k12.ma.us.   Currently, the School Nutrition Department is providing meals to more than 100 students.  

For more information about the remote learning recommendations from DESE, the Commissioner of Education provided a letter to families in English and Spanish reviewing the recommendations. 

Be healthy and well,

Dede Galdston, Ed.D., Superintendent

Good evening,

I want to provide you with the recent announcement this afternoon by Governor Charlie Baker that Massachusetts schools will remain closed until May 4. We will follow up later this week with further information about the implications of this extended closure, but be assured we will continue with the excellent plans in place for the WPS community. As we learn more about the opportunities as well as the limitations that remote learning presents, we will all become more skilled as partners on this journey to keep the learning moving forward even when our school buildings are closed. Attached you will find a joint statement from the twelve communities that comprise the Middlesex League about our shared vision and goals for the extended closure.

Our primary goal for the remainder of this week is to identify students who still need access to online learning and to provide continued support for all of our families. Originally, our focus was on families with limited access to devices or the internet. What we quickly learned was that even in households with computers, parents and guardians who are now also working from home are utilizing the available devices for their remote work. We have deployed well over 100 devices to our families PreK-5, and at least as many to our middle school students. Fortunately, our high school students were already assigned a personal Chromebook. As stated in yesterday’s newsletter (March 24, 2020), please contact your principal this week if you need support accessing our online resources.

Please know that we are actively preparing for how to support all students. We are particularly sensitive to the challenges faced by our students with unique learning needs, such as our English Learners and our students with disabilities. Our teachers of English as a second language, reading specialists, special education teachers, related service providers, and school counselors are all planning for the children with whom they work and determining how best to provide access to the curriculum remotely while school is closed. When we return to school in May, we will maximize the time that we have to ensure that this closure does not impact long-term learning and benchmarks. It may take some time to get there and our amazingly skilled educators and support staff will meet all students where they are at that time and keep moving forward.

Finally, many of us know people who are affected by the virus and we are all vulnerable to its effects. We are in the midst of a pandemic and need to acknowledge that our families and our staff are doing their best in uncharted territory. The health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance to us. Please continue to adhere to social distancing and do not hesitate to reach out to your principal if there is anything you or your family needs. We are here to help!

Kind regards,

Dr. Dede Galdston, Superintendent

Dr. Theresa McGuinness, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Ms. Kathleen Desmarais, Director of Student Services



March 24, 2020

Link to Smore newsletter for translation:  https://www.smore.com/3pqbz

Good evening WPS families, faculty, and staff:

During this extraordinary time we find ourselves in, I want you to know how much we all appreciate your compassion and patience as we join together in support of the children. As we settle into this new virtual educational reality, I want to share a few updates and reminders with you.  

Elementary and Middle School Conferences

The elementary and middle school conferences that were scheduled to begin tomorrow are postponed with new dates to be determined.  Our staff are currently engaged in learning how best to work in an online environment and therefore are not able to provide feedback to parents/guardians about student performance at this time. When we return to school, we will reschedule our conferences and look forward to these important opportunities for partnering together on your child(ren)’s education. 


School Nutrition

Our wonderful School Nutrition Department is providing breakfast and lunch for all families who need this support. Please stop by the High School faculty parking lot off of Broadway Street between the hours of 11 am to 1 pm to pick up the meals.  All we are asking for is your name and the number of lunches your family needs.  Currently, we are providing meals daily, Monday through Friday.  If you are not able to pick up these meals, but could use them, please email lunch_line@watertown.k12.ma.us.   I am most grateful for our school nutrition workers and custodians who are keeping this operation open during the closure!


Extended Learning Opportunity Website

As a reminder, the WPS Curriculum Team has created a helpful and extensive Extended Learning Opportunity Webpage for your use during the closure, which includes grade-level specific resources, digital learning opportunities and social/emotional learning resources, all of which can be accomplished at home. This webpage is intended to be a guide that you can adjust to meet the needs of your family as you support your child or teen in balancing on-screen and off-screen tasks while they are out of school, and is supplemental to what our teachers are providing students in their communications. Our goal is to enrich and reinforce learning, and to support you as you are home with your children.  If you need a device for your child to access the online resources, please email your principal this week.  

Community Meetings


Beginning this week, our teachers will hold Community Meetings in an effort to reach as many of our students as possible.  Not only are the Community Meetings a great way for teachers to check-in with your children, but it also allows us to continue to narrow down the number of students who may not be able to connect, which is critical to our success with remote learning activities. Community Meetings will offer our students a chance to reconnect and be social with each other with our staff there to facilitate the conversation.  We will be using Zoom and Google Classroom or Google Hangouts for the meetings, and teachers will send out information about the meetings via email.  If your teacher uses Zoom, these meetings are live and will not be recorded. Teachers will provide guidelines and norms for the Community Meeting and we ask that you please have a conversation with your child over appropriate behavior during these group meetings.  


As always, I will update the community as soon as we have any information to share from the Commissioner of Education.


With great appreciation, 

Dede Galdston




March 18, 2020

Good Evening, WPS Families, and Staff:

Tomorrow as we welcome our incredible staff to join together in virtual spaces and begin to transition to providing continuous learning opportunities for students and families, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the entire community for understanding that shifting from face-to-face live instruction to this new virtual learning paradigm is challenging.  The next few weeks will be a time that we all learn and grow together.  Our teachers and staff are learning how best to keep continuity in learning for our students, and our families are learning how best to guide and support their children at home.  

Keeping Learning Moving

The Office of Teaching, Learning, & Assessment is continuing to develop excellent resources to support our families while schools are closed. On our new Extended Learning Opportunities webpage, we have posted educational resources for students from early childhood through grade 12. We hope you will find these resources to be helpful to stay engaged and provide opportunities for learning during the school closure. Please note that these activities are not intended to replace or substitute classroom instruction, but instead to keep our students engaged and thinking as much as possible while school is not in session. You may want to bookmark this site as we will be utilizing it and updating it throughout the period of closure.  As our teachers are preparing for course and/or grade level specific learning opportunities, please refer to this website as it provides deeply engaging resources for you to use with your children.

Tomorrow, our educators will gather for a virtual staff meeting with their principal to reconnect with one another and to share information about our new virtual work.  On Friday, teachers will reach out to parents at the K-5 level via email and directly to students and parents via email or Google Classroom in grades 6-12. They will share plans and resources for the coming week for continued learning.  Please note that at this time we are not holding virtual classes at a scheduled time, but rather are providing resources and learning materials one week at a time that should be utilized using the sample schedules that are being offered.  As the weeks progress and we all learn more about our new context for teaching and learning, I am confident that we will fall into routines and schedules that keep learning moving.  Please be patient with our teaching staff, as they also are learning about how to best support their students while at home.  

Technology Access 

Moving to distance learning will involve a variety of activities, many of which are online and require internet connectivity.  If you are unable to connect to the internet via an internet provider, a personal hotspot, or other means to access online content, please send an email to your children’s principal or call the WPS Central Office at 617-926-7708 between the hours of 8-12.  There are several options for low- or no-cost internet currently being offered, and more information can be found on our digital learning website.  If your child needs a device to access the online resources, we have Chromebooks available for loan.  Please contact your principal via email for assistance. 

Monitoring Your Child’s Online Use  

As we move to more online resources for our students, please be vigilant in monitoring their online activities.  We are working to provide you with resources that have been vetted. As you begin to seek out activities to supplement learning, we suggest that you check the app or website privacy statements to ensure that you are aware of how data may or may not be shared.  We will provide families with more guidance about how best to do this in the coming days, and for now, you can refer to our Empowered Digital Use Policy.

Additionally, please review your children’s social media activity and talk to them about their online use.   Our children crave social interactions, which is a natural part of being a child (or human), and as such, we imagine that they will be turning to social media, especially at the middle school and high school level.   We strongly suggest setting limits for using social media, especially as the news right now is dominated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Contact Information

We sincerely appreciate your support of our larger state-wide effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.   If you have any questions, whether about the above information or the closure in general, please do not hesitate to contact me, your principal, or another administrator.  All administrators will be working remotely during the closure and will be available to respond to your inquiries. 

Dr. Dede Galdston, Superintendent, deanne.galdston@watertown.k12.ma.us

Dr. Theresa McGuinness, Assistant Superintendent,theresa.mcguinness@watertown.k12.ma.us

Heidi Perkins, Director of Finance and Operations, heidi.perkins@watertown.k12.ma.us

Kathleen Desmarais, Director of Student Services, kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us

Ken Storlazzi, Director of Human Resources, kenneth.storlazzi@watertown.k12.ma.us  

George Skuse, Director of Technology, george.skuse@watertown.k12.ma.us

Lori Kabel, Director of Public Buildings, lori.kabel@watertown.k12.ma.us

Shirley Lundberg, WHS Principal, shirley.lundberg@watertown.k12.ma.us

Donna Martin, WMS Principal, donna.martin@watertown.k12.ma.us

Mena Ciarlone - Cunniff Principal, mena.ciarlone@watertown.k12.ma.us

Erin Moulton, Hosmer Principal, erin.moulton@watertown.k12.ma.us

Stacy Phelan, Lowell Principal, stacy.phelan@watertown.k12.ma.us

Karen Feeney, Early Childhood, karen.feeney@watertown.k12.ma.us

Kate Phillipson, ESL Coordinator, kathryn.phillipson@watertown.k12.ma.us
Rashmi Pimprikar, Director of Digital Learning & Libraries, rashmi.pimprikar@watertown.k12.ma.us

If you need assistance via phone, you can call (617) 926-7708 between the hours of 8 am-12 pm. 

Yours truly,

Dede Galdston and the WPS Leadership Team

 



March 15, 2020

Good Evening Watertown Public Schools Families and Staff, 

Governor Baker just announced that all schools in Massachusetts, with the exception of residential programs, will be
closed until April 7. Our Watertown leadership team is meeting tomorrow to continue our diligent planning of continuous learning experiences for our students and will be providing families with our plan mid-week, as noted in my March 13th update. 
 
The Importance of Social Distancing
I want to emphasize once again the need for social distancing. The state-wide school closure is meant to slow the spread of COVID 19 and we must work together to practice social distancing.  This means students should not be visiting friends, gathering at playgrounds or parks, or meeting in public spaces.  We encourage students to play outside, but only with household members when possible.

Please see the WPS Website for more information about COVID-19, with links to official public health resources: MA DPH and CDC at
Update Center Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information.

Food Support for Students
We will be distributing grab and go lunches for students beginning tomorrow in the Watertown High School rear parking lot.  We have worked with our school nutrition department to develop essential services for students experiencing food scarcity and/or insecurity to have access to meals that will comply with social isolation expectations.  Meals will be distributed in the faculty parking lot on Barnard Ave behind Watertown High School,  Monday - Friday from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm.  Please note that all meals must be taken and consumed off-site.  If assistance is needed to access the food station, please contact lunch_line@watertown.k12.ma.us  or call (617) 926 7766.  Additional food resources can be found at https://www.watertown-ma.gov/250/Watertown-Food-Pantry

Building Closure
All of our schools are closed.  If you need to get into a building, please contact your school’s principal.  The Middle School is scheduling a systematic pick up of Chromebooks over the next few days.  Principal Martin will be contacting middle school families with a schedule for the pickup.  If your child has medication(s) that are needed during this time period, please contact the Student Services Office at 617-926-7766 or email
kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us

Thank you for your continued support and please know that your Watertown Public School community is here for you and will be continually providing updates as information becomes available. 

Link to Newsletter in Smore for translation:  
https://www.smore.com/43s8j 
Kind regards,
Dr. Dede Galdston, Superintendent


March 13, 2020


Good evening Watertown Public Schools Families,


We have been working diligently to manage the impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and truly appreciate the patience of the WPS community as we respond to this ever-evolving situation.  As you know, we decided to close all Watertown Public Schools from today Friday, March 13th through Friday, March 27th. Student and staff safety is our primary concern and the goal of all decision-making. Below you will find information that responds to many of the questions that families raised following our decision to close.

The Importance of Social Distancing and Personal Hygiene
To slow the spread of COVID 19, we must work together to practice social distancing.  This means students should not be visiting friends, gathering at playgrounds or parks, or meeting in public spaces such as the library or the mall.  Please note that the Watertown Public Library is also closed through March 27.  We urge families and students to avoid gathering in large groups or in public spaces during this school closure.  We encourage students to play outside, but only with household members when possible.  Remember, the most effective way to combat COVID 19 is with proper hand-washing and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow.  Anyone who is feeling sick or has symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat should stay home.

Food Support for Students
We have worked with our school nutrition department to develop essential services for students experiencing food scarcity and/or insecurity to have access to meals that will comply with social isolation expectations.  Meals will be distributed in the faculty parking lot on Barnard Ave behind Watertown High School,  Monday - Friday from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm.  Please note that all meals must be taken and consumed off-site.  If assistance is needed to access the food station, please contact lunch_line@watertown.k12.ma.us  or call (617) 926 7766.  Additional food resources can be found at https://www.watertown-ma.gov/250/Watertown-Food-Pantry.

Enrichment During School Closure
To ensure equity of access, we cannot substitute in-person instruction with remote learning opportunities while schools are closed; however, we will provide multiple resources for students and families to utilize during the school closure. Resources will be available in various modalities and will depend on the grade level of the students. The Watertown Public Schools Leadership Team will be meeting on Monday, March 16 to further plan and prepare.  After the first four days of closure, we will provide families with information about ways to “Keep Learning Alive” as we experience this extended school closure. The suggested activities will not be mandatory and are not considered instruction.  Student homework, grades, test scores and the like will not be negatively impacted by this school closure.  Students, families, and faculty have many questions and while we do not have all of the answers at this point in time, please be assured we will update you as we learn more.

Previously Scheduled Activities
We know it is disappointing that activities are canceled and major events, such as the middle school musical, are postponed during the school closure.  We will work to reschedule activities when school reopens. We understand that there will be questions about AP classes, college application deadlines, term ending dates, spring conferences, graduation, and other special events that we cannot yet answer at this time.  We will communicate as information becomes available.  The MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) has moved spring sports start to the earliest March 30, 2020.  At this time, WPS Central Office will be open.  However, school buildings are closed for business.  If you need to get into a building, please contact your school’s principal.  If your child has medication(s) that are needed during this time period, please contact the Student Services Office at 617 926 7766 or email kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us.

Follow-up and Next Steps
This is an unprecedented public health situation that is rapidly changing. Our hope is that if we all work together, we can reduce the spread of this virus, protect our most vulnerable residents, and resume normal activities.If you or someone in your household has a confirmed case of COVID-19, please immediately contact the Student Services office at (617) 926-7766 or at kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us.  Please also contact the Watertown Health Department at (617) 972-6446. Please see the WPS Website for more information about COVID-19, with links to official public health resources: MA DPH and CDC at Update Center Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Kind regards,
Dr. Dede Galdston, Superintendent

 

March 12, 2020

Dear Watertown families,

We have made the decision to close all Watertown Public Schools for two weeks starting tomorrow, Friday, March 13th. Schools will remain closed through Friday, March 27th.

Increasingly, we have seen a significant shift in the coronavirus outbreak. We spoke with Watertown Health Department officials, and at this time there is one presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Watertown, not connected to the WPS’ community. Additionally, we have seen an increase in secondary contacts reporting possible contact with an individual who may have been tested for the virus. Therefore, similar to our neighboring districts, we have decided to take proactive measures to slow the rapid spread of the virus. We do this out of an abundance of caution, particularly out of sensitivity to families and staff who have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to complications should they become infected.  We also do not do this lightly, as we know that this will impose a hardship on families who do not have childcare options.

Please be aware that this school closure period of time may be extended or shortened should State authorities so direct. This closure applies to all schools, including students who are attending out-of-district schools, extra-curricular activities, extended-day before/after school care, athletics, clubs, and building use. 

Students who may have left personal items in their locker or in the school can retrieve these belongings tomorrow, Friday, March 13, between 9:00 a.m. and noon. As we move through next week, we will communicate with you further with additional details about our closure. Over the next week, you will hear additional details from your school principals regarding the availability of access to learning opportunities during this closure. We recognize that this is unprecedented and that this closure will be a significant burden for a number of our families. Please know that we remain committed to supporting you to the greatest extent possible during this time. 

We will be holding a School Committee meeting regarding our next steps tomorrow afternoon at 4:30, which will be broadcast on WCATV.  If you have any questions that you would like to have addressed, please email them to Kathleen.Demarais@watertown.k12.ma.us. To promote social distancing, we request that you watch the meeting via WCATV and submit questions via email. 

As always, we will continue to closely monitor this situation and follow the guidance of our local board of health, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).   If you any questions, please reach out to your child’s principal or Kathy Desmarais, the Director of Student Services. 

Kind regards.  
Dr. Dede Galdston & The WPS Leadership Team

March 11, 2020

Dear WPS Community:

Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency 
to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 (novel Corona) virus.  At this time, we are assessing how this most recent development may impact upcoming school meetings and events, and we will monitor the evolving situation and revisit these decisions daily.  Out of an abundance of caution, at this time, only the following events are affected:
  • Our large-scale, full-district Bandarama event scheduled for this evening, Wednesday, March 11 is canceled
  • Literacy Night at Lowell School on Thursday, March 12 will be rescheduled
  • Mr. WHS on Thursday, March 12 will be rescheduled
  • Pennis for Patients Rummage Sale on Saturday, March 14 will be rescheduled
  • As recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we are also postponing the overseas field trip that was planned for April break.
The Watertown Health Department assures us there are still no confirmed or suspected cases of Coronavirus in the Watertown Public Schools or the Watertown community, and the risk of exposure to our students, staff, and families remains low at this time.  However, we are continuing to take precautionary and preventative measures to ensure the health of our students, staff, and families. Each day we are following the latest information from the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Massachusetts Department Public Health (MDPH), and Watertown Health Department.  We will also continue to evaluate in-state and out-of-state field trips. Please do not attend WPS events if you have a fever greater than 100° and/or flu-like symptoms, and keep children home from school if they are ill.

We continue to request
that any staff member or student who travels or has traveled outside of the country within the past two weeks inform the school nurse.  If you or someone in your household has a confirmed case of COVID-19, please immediately contact the Student Services office at (617) 926-7766 or at kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us.  Additionally, please contact the Watertown Health Department at (617) 972-6446.

Resources for families:  We recognize that COVID-19 can make children and families anxious. We encourage parents and staff to use the attached resource from Riverside Trauma Center when talking with children about it.  Children should reach out to a trusted adult if they have concerns, and please reassure them that the schools are working to keep everyone safe and healthy.  You can stay informed about the COVID-19 outbreak by visiting the links for our governmental health organizations and you may also find updates on the WPS webpage at Update Center Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Confidentiality: As with any medical information, confidentiality about our staff, students, and families must be maintained at all times according to federal regulations. Information about the reasons for absences, travel history, symptoms, illness, or treatment is protected and cannot be shared.

Planning for Remote Learning: in the event of prolonged school closures, we are planning how to provide continuous learning activities for all students, and we have formed a Continuous Learning Task Force to determine how best to provide learning remotely should the need arise.  In our schools, we have the ability for our students in grades 6-12 to utilize Chromebooks, and we are considering how best to continue learning at the elementary level.  If this becomes necessary, we will clearly communicate with families how to access resources to continue learning outside of the school building.   

Thank you for your continued support and patience as we navigate this ongoing, evolving situation.  

Best, 
Dr. Dede Galdston, Ed.D., Superintendent
Dr. Kathleen Desmarais, Director of Student Services



March 6, 2020
 

Dear WPS community,

We understand that concerns regarding the potential for exposure to the novel Coronavirus (COVID 19) are increasing across the state and country. Please know that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Watertown Health Department continue to assure us that there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Coronavirus in the Watertown Public Schools or the Watertown community at this time. The risk of exposure to our students, staff, and families remains low at this time.

We are staying up to date daily with the evolving Coronavirus situation and will continue to be proactive in ensuring the health and safety of our Watertown Public Schools community.

The Watertown Public Schools has a dedicated COVID-19 webpage for important links and information regarding this emerging situation, including links to the Watertown Health Department, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and other related sources for information.

Thank you for your continued support and patience throughout this evolving situation.

Kind regards,

Dr. Dede Galdston
Superintendent of Schools




March 5, 2020

Dear WPS Community:

As recommended in yesterday’s Superintendent Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Updates letter, a Watertown High School staff member who traveled abroad over February break went to the Watertown High School nurse this morning prior to the start of classes based on the criteria set forth by the Watertown Department of Health.  The employee was sent home as a precautionary measure. At this time, there is no indication that the staff member has the novel Coronavirus.

The District immediately informed the Watertown Department of Health (WDH) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and we continue to follow their guidelines.  We were advised by both WDH and MDPH that there are no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Watertown and our schools should remain open. If that changes, the Massachusetts DPH and the Watertown Department of Health will work with us to determine the next steps.

Recognizing that this is an unsettling time across the globe, we want to assure you that we continue to monitor this situation daily. You may also find updates on the WPS Webpage at: Update Center Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information.

Kind regards,

Dr. Dede Galdston, Superintendent

March 4, 2020

Dear WPS Community:

We would like to provide you an update as we continue to monitor the emerging COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. The Watertown Public Schools’ Critical Incident Team, comprised of building administrators, the Director of Community Education, the Director of Public Buildings, the Director of Student Services and the Superintendent (me), met last week to discuss the District’s response to COVID-19. A subgroup of this Committee is meeting weekly to monitor COVID-19 and to determine any necessary actions that need to be taken by the District. We will meet more frequently if warranted.

We are continually monitoring communications from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and our local Department of Public Health. The Watertown Health Department has provided the following guidance:

The Watertown Health Department advises that any Watertown public school staff members and or students who have traveled internationally should check their temperature daily and if any of the following symptoms occur--Fever with Cough/Sneezing and/or Shortness of Breath-- they should stay at home until symptoms are resolved. Additionally, they should report their illness to their Primary Care Physician (PCP). Notification to their PCP should include symptoms and travel history.


We also request that if a staff member or student has traveled outside of the country that they inform the school nurse. We have yet to have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in this area or in our schools, but we continue to monitor the situation closely in Watertown while focusing on prevention. If there were to be confirmed cases within our schools or greater community, we would promptly determine what actions should be taken, which may include the closing of schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Several members of the WPS community have inquired about what we will do to continue learning if schools were closed for extended periods of time. DESE is the public entity that will provide districts with guidance on how to continue learning if there were school closings. We are obligated to follow their recommendations, and as such, we await an advisory from DESE.

Our nurses and school staff are reinforcing with our students the importance of handwashing for the prevention of COVID-19. Additionally, our custodial staff is reviewing and implementing their influenza protocols, which is the recommendation for COVID-19 as well. We are focused on cleaning all of the “touchpoints” in our buildings, which include doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, floors, and stall latches, the nurse’s office, etc. Following the guidance from the CDC and our past practices, we routinely disinfect all surfaces in classrooms using our fogger/mister system, which sprays disinfectant broadly in classrooms and other areas in our schools. The disinfectant that we use, GenEon, is a non-toxic sanitizer that kills 99.99% of germs, including all viruses. Our classrooms are being stocked with EPA-approved disinfectant wipes for use as needed. We are taking these steps as precautionary measures. We will also be installing hand sanitizing stations by the cafeterias shortly.

As a reminder, the precautions to help prevent colds and the flu can also help to protect against COVID-19.

DPH recommends that schools continue education about good hygiene. Students, staff members, and volunteers are reminded to:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, if unable to wash, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
• Cover your coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve (not with your hands)
• Stay away from people who are sick and stay home when you are sick


We urge families to reinforce with your children the need for thorough 20-second handwashing before eating and after using the bathroom or any time that it seems appropriate. Reinforcing what was previously communicated, it is important to keep children home from school when they are ill. If your child has any of the following symptoms, please keep them home from school: temperature greater than 100, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, any rash not yet diagnosed by a physician, red or pink itchy eye, and/or drainage from eye, and any contagious illness such as chickenpox, strep throat or flu.

We will continue to share new information with you about this evolving situation.

Sincerely,
Dede Galdston, Superintendent deanne.galdston@watertown.k12.ma.us
Kathleen Desmarais, Director of Studen
t Services, kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us


February 26, 2020


Dear Watertown Families,

We understand that many families have questions regarding the recent outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and how it may impact our local community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing daily updates and recommendations. Please click on the following link to stay updated https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. While this is a public health concern, the CDC continues to report that the immediate risk to the general public remains low at this time.

The precautions we already take to protect against colds and the flu also help protect against COVID-19. These precautions include education about hygiene and reminders for students, staff, and volunteers to:

• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and, if unable to wash, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
• Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
• Cover coughs and/ or sneezes with a tissue or sleeve (not hands)
• Avoid people who are sick and stay home/ keep children home when sick

We are continuing to follow our regular cleaning and disinfection program, which includes:

• Cleaning desks, tables, countertops, sinks, and other hard surfaces.
• Cleaning and disinfecting door handles, faucets, railings, and other frequently touched surfaces
• Cleaning and disinfecting bathrooms and health rooms
• Using EPA-approved disinfectant to clean high-touch surfaces and patient care areas
• Cleaning surfaces first to remove all organic matter. Thorough cleaning with soap and water or a multi-purpose cleaner removes most microorganisms.
• Using disinfectants in a safe and effective manner to clean up potentially infectious materials and body fluid spills
• Washing and disinfecting bathroom fixtures, floors, and touchpoints daily with a neutral disinfectant cleaner.

Our school nurses are following the CDCs recommended guidelines for isolating and screening individuals who have recently traveled who come to the nurse’s office with symptoms of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. For more information on COVID-19, please see here.

It is important to keep children home from school when they are ill. If your child has any of the following symptoms please keep them home from school: temperature greater than 100, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, any rash not yet diagnosed by a physician, red or pink itchy eye, and/or drainage from eye, and any contagious illness such as chicken pox, strep throat or flu.

The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is an evolving situation that we are following closely and will continue to update you as information is shared with us. Please rest assured that we are monitoring student health concerns. We are in close communication with the Watertown Board of Health, Massachusetts Department of Public Health/School Health Unit, as well as pediatric health care providers in the community.

We remain deeply committed to student and staff wellness and will continue to share new information with you, as necessary, about this evolving situation.

Sincerely,
Dede Galdston, Superintendent deanne.galdston@watertown.k12.ma.us
Kathleen Desmarais, Director of Student Services,kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us