Parent Starts Petition Asking Schools to Move to Hybrid Earlier

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A screenshot of the parent petition asking for the Watertown Schools to reopen earlier.

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.

14 thoughts on “Parent Starts Petition Asking Schools to Move to Hybrid Earlier

    • Lisa, you certainly have right to your own opinion and these questions are not easy, but it is safe by the standards the school dept has said they will use. They are just choosing to officially not look at the numbers at this time.

      This petition asks that that we assess the safety of our schools. It should be a non-controversial proposition.

  1. Please tell me if I am reading the plan incorrectly. But it looks like when we move to Hybrid, elementary students will be IN SCHOOL IN PERSON for half a day, 2 days a week.

    High school will be in school, in person, 2 days a week.

    All these comments about the sky falling act like it’s a choice between 0 days in school and 5 days in school. But it’s not.

    And you want this when our plan has no comprehensive testing/tracing/isolation of students or staff.

  2. The point of the petition is to review on a more regular basis and not wait until end of November/December respectively. No ones wants to put anyone in danger. There are going to be clusters and bumps but we should be able to try. The parents that don’t feel safe have a remote option. We were under the impression that we were going to start Hybrid and we did not. The people I want protected the most are the teachers, they are the ones at risk but the schools I think should be proud of what they have done to make the schools safe. If the schools feel they have done enough to minimize risks then they should stand by it.

  3. This should not be a debate. We are only low in our numbers because we have been out of schools and enclosed places. Check local hospitals, the numbers are going up, even in Watertown. The only thing that has changed is that more people are entering enclosed places. The choice is in-school education with the possibility of long term health problems or death, or stay home, live to learn, and keep your family and others healthy. We can’t have both. Being away from school isn’t great for children emotionally, however, neither is staying 6 feet away from each other while wearing a mask with required “mask breaks”. Let’s not forget that the flu and cold season is upon us, and at this time schools cannot immediately differentiate from symptoms, therefor the child will be staying/sent home regardless, not to mention possibly putting others at risk.

  4. How many people in Watertown have died of Covid-19?
    I think it’s 24 total.
    That is not good, but seems to me the risk is very low.
    How many were young people? 1?

    As for wearing masks:
    If they’re so good, why wear them just for Covid-19? How about the flu? The common cold which can be dangerous for older people who are already unwell.

  5. Portz and Galdston will ignore this, pay lip service or shelve it completely. They want the Commonwealth to dictate to them in order to insulate themselves from the teacher’s union. This is all a political game at the expense of the children.

  6. Today the President of the United States tests positive for COVID-19. He lives in perhaps the “safest bubble” of our society where everyone around him is constantly tested before meeting him. Yet he, and the First Lady, still got the virus. If we can’t keep POTUS safe and healthy then how does opening the Watertown Public Schools early make any sense for the students, staff and their families as COVID-19 cases soared over 700 yesterday in MA indicating a resurgence of the virus? There’s no question that opening schools in MA (both public and private) has led to an increase in cases in our state. This FACT is supported by several local towns (see: Natick, Milton, Dedham, Sudbury) delaying re-opening plans due to a virus uptick. To the statement written above that one dead child in Watertown presents an acceptable low risk is unacceptable by any standard.

  7. We have our kids in private schools which have been in person since day one. While certainly not an option for everyone, they set an example of what can be done safety with proper planning and leadership.

  8. Ricky Decision,

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Trump got COVID because when he meets dozens of people daily and he has a culture of NOT wearing a mask. It was reported when they are on AF1 – no masks. Guy never wears a mask. That’s why he got COVID.

    All the towns you mentioned that delayed openings Natick, Milton, Dedham and Sudbury was NOT due to an uptick. It was due to High School kids having keg parties with students with no masks on. As the schools couldn’t identify the students who fled, they delayed openings by two weeks to be safe. There was ZERO correlation to increased cases in these towns.

  9. Isn’t it possible that one of the reasons Watertown is in a good place is BECAUSE our schools are not opened and we are taking a cautiously safe plan of opening schools? Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but I feel an enormous amount of gratitude toward the superintendent and school committee for making a decision that they truly believe is the best for the safety of our community as a whole.

    Let’s take a collective deep breath and let the transition to hybrid take place as scheduled. Positive cases are rising in all of Massachusetts. Despite our relatively low numbers in Watertown, many staff members live in other communities. Also, parents and immediate family members of our school children work in other towns which very well may be in the higher risk categories. Our school children could be showing no obvious signs of illness yet still be carrying this deadly virus. Why take ANY chance of spreading this disease until we see what course this is taking?

    I realize many parents need to work. But once schools do open, the limited hours of actually when the children will be in school (8 hours total per week for elementary children) would still require parents to secure child care for the majority of the work week thus increasing their level of exposure and risk of contracting the virus. And using the reasoning that children need the social aspect of school does not truly make sense. Kids want to play with other kids at recess. They want to work together in groups within the classroom. They want to be able to approach their teachers for help and encouragement when needed. These things are not possible with masks and distancing protocols that are necessary. They want to go back to the school that they know, not what it has been modified to be.

    Can we honestly believe that the ventilation systems in the older school buildings are adequately safe? This is not even considering that there are classrooms without sinks available for handwashing, which is an invaluable step in preventing transmission.

    There is still so much we don’t know about this virus. The unknown is a scary thing particularly when there is no way to determine what the long term effects that this disease will be on the health of the millions that have contracted the virus in our country alone. We can all agree that the education of our children is of utmost importance. This is (hopefully) one school year that will be dramatically affected. Let’s ride out this storm together and support our schools in continuing to educate our children in the safest way possible.

  10. All of the arguments about delaying opening would be valid except one thing. Take a look around at all the parks, streets, and your neighbors house. All of these kids have been together with all their friends all summer long, very few if any have been in their own family bubble away from others.

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