LETTER: Watertown Teachers Union Responds to State’s Letter on Starting In-Person Classes

The Watertown Educators Association supports the School Committee and Superintendent Deanne Galdston in their decision to begin the school year with a robust remote learning plan and a strategic return to in-person learning using sensible health and safety protocols. Educators are dismayed by Commissioner Jeff Riley and Governor Charlie Baker’s threatening directive to recklessly force students and educators back into school buildings. How the school year unfolds is a local decision arrived at democratically, and stakeholders in the community have made clear that beginning with remote learning is the best way to meet the needs of students while preventing the spread of COVID-19 to our students, our school staff, and the community. https://www.watertownmanews.com/2020/09/22/watertown-among-districts-encouraged-by-state-to-return-to-in-person-learning/

Educators want nothing more than to be back in classrooms with their students. However, the risk of COVID-19 makes that impossible, and is particularly concerning in Watertown where school buildings present health and safety issues to address before a physical return makes sense.

Purchase of New Ambulance Approved, Number of Calls Increasing

The Watertown Fire Department will be getting a new ambulance, which will help with the increasing numbers of medical calls to which paramedics respond. On Tuesday night, the Town Council unanimously approved the borrowing of $355,00 to pay for the purchase of a new ambulance. It will be paid off over five years with a total expected cost, including interest, of $402,925. The current ambulance, a 2016 GMC, has about 42,000 miles on it and will be kept as in reserve after the new one is delivered, said Fire Chief Bob Quinn. He said there is a lead time of about 8 months after ordering an ambulance.

Watertown Among Districts Encouraged by State to Return to In-Person Learning

The Watertown Public Schools welcomed students back Tuesday with classes being taught remotely via computer. On Monday, the Massachusetts education officials sent a letter to Watertown and other districts running virtual classes asking when they will start running in-person classes. The letter, sent by Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, asked 16 school districts where the rate of COVID-19 infections are low, to return to in-person learning. Belmont was one of the other districts to receive the letter from the state. State officials said that DESE only recommended remote learning for communities with high risk of COVID-19 infection.

Many Changes in Store for WHS Sports During COVID-19

Watertown High School’s field hockey team, and other sports, will soon start their fall season, but with several changes due to COVID-19. Weekend games, reduced schedules and very limited fans — these are just some of the changes in store for Watertown High School athletes this fall. Last week, the School Committee approved the plans for holding high school sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most Watertown High School fall sports teams will be getting ready for their season to begin in late September. Outdoor sports, except for football, will compete this fall.

Face Covering Requirement Relaxed by Watertown Board of Health

Watertown had one of the strictest face covering requirements in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but on Wednesday the Board of Health voted to bring Watertown’s rules in line with those set by Massachusetts officials. The main difference between Watertown’s rules and the state’s was that people over age 5 had to wear face coverings everywhere in public, inside and out, in Watertown. The state guidelines have a face covering requirement when outside only when you cannot stay 6 feet or farther apart. People violating Watertown’s order face a possible fine of $300. Along with changing when face coverings must be worn, the amendment also makes the first violation punishable by a warning, and the second violation could result in a $300 fine.

Schools Providing Chromebooks for All Students, Support for Families

A screenshot of the Watertown Public Schools Ed Tech help page for families. All students are starting the year remotely, and will use Chromebooks provided by their schools. Watertown students will be attending school remotely to start the year, and will do so on Chromebook laptops loaned to them by the district. To help parents and students navigate the virtual world, School officials have set up a tech information website. Superintendent Dede Galdston told the School Committee Monday that all students in grades 1-12 will receive a Chromebook from their school to use when attending classes remotely, Galdston said.

Metrics Look Good for Schools to Move to In-Person Classes, For Now

A map from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health showing the levels of COVID-19 in communities. Green means fewer than 4 cases per 100,000, yellow between 4 and 8 per 100,000 and red more than 8 per 100,000. Grey is less than 4 per 100,000. If the COVID-19 rates were they same as they are this week, Superintendent Dede Galdston told the School Committee Monday that the Watertown will start in-person hybrid classes in late October for the elementary students, late November for the middle and high school. The Watertown Public Schools decided in August that the first day of school will be on Sept.

Find Out About the Microenterprise Grants, Deadline Approaching

Businesses with five or fewer employees can apply for microenterprise grants. The following information was provided by the Watertown Department of Community Development & Planning:

Building on its commitment to supporting Watertown residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Watertown has established a $175,000 emergency rental assistance program. The program will allow income-eligible tenants to apply for up to three months assistance if they have lost income and are having trouble paying rent as a result of the pandemic. The deadline to complete the application is Thursday, September 24. “During this difficult time, it is important that we help Watertown residents stay in their homes and help ensure their health and safety,” said Assistant Town Manager Steven Magoon.