The Watertown Public Schools will not be moving to a hybrid model with a mix of in-person and remote learning, until Oct. 26 at the earliest, but a Hosmer Elementary School parent has started a petition asking officials to reconsider.
The decision to start the year remotely, and move to hybrid later in the fall, was made in August. School officials have been under pressure from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to open earlier because COVID-19 rates put the Town into the lower-risk category (green) in the state’s Community Level COVID Data Reporting system.
This week, Superintendent Dede Galdston and School Committee Chair John Portz responded to the letter from DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley asking for Watertown to open for in-person learning. The district’s letter said Watertown would remain on course for its original decision, which they said was made before the state’s reopening recommendations based on COVID-19 levels, and was based on surveys of Watertown parents and staff.
Hosmer Parent Owen Murphy has started a petition asking Watertown school officials to change their decision and open for at least some in-person learning sooner than Oct. 26 (the date cited in Watertown’s letter) for elementary school students and Nov. 30 for middle and high school students in the district’s plan.
The petition notes that Watertown School officials said they would make data driven decisions on when to reopen, but the schools remain closed for most (some high needs special education and English Language Learners are attending in-person).
The petition reads: “If our plan is not allowed flexibility, if we must wait four more weeks for K-5 (until October 27) and nine more weeks for grades 6-12 (until November 30) to even possibly open our schools, it will be a tragic lost opportunity for the education, socialization, and well-being of our students. Allow our plan to do its job and serve us best by absorbing new information.”
Among other points, the petition notes that private schools in Watertown have reopened, and Belmont recently decided to reopen its elementary schools (K-4) on Oct. 5, which is two weeks earlier than planned (Grades 5-12 will open no sooner than Oct. 22 under the current plan).
The petition said: “With masks, distancing, ventilation, and hand-washing it is safe to do so. If we proceed as the plan is currently being executed, this could result in at least 2-3 months less in person school for Watertown children compared to other communities with low Covid rates.”
The petition will be submitted to the Superintendent and School Committee members before the Oct. 5 School Committee meeting.
The petition can be seen by clicking here.