The Watertown School schools have a little over $100,000 left in next year’s budget after preserving the current staffing and programs, the School Committee heard last week. Director of Finance and Operations Heidi Perkins presented the level-service budget last week, which would be $53.75 million including a 3.5 percent increase in funding from the Town. That amount does not include other funds such as state special education circuit breaker money, which will add about half of the increase that makes the total budget $57 million. While the budget will go up by about $1.8 million, Perkins said that only six percent of that will be available for new proposals. The level-service budget, however, does include some new positions.
Watertown School officials stood by their decision to delay the start of in-person learning, citing COVID-19 safety concerns, after the release of the district’s audit by state education officials. Watertown was one of two districts audited in October 2020. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) commissioner sent a letter saying the Town’s COVID-19 rates were low enough that Watertown should start the school year with in-person learning, at least part-time. The Audit report largely summarized the findings of state education officials’ interviews with district officials, and the materials submitted by Watertown officials to DESE. (See the report by clicking here).
Watertown School leaders have begun equity and anti-racism training, and more staff members will soon be working with the group hired after the reports of racial harassment in the Watertown Schools went public. School leadership recently went through a two hour training on becoming a culturally proficient leader, which is part of a 10-hour course, said Superintendent Dede Galdston. On Monday, Galston introduced Dr. Kalise Wornum of KW Diversity, which is conducting the training and working with the district on related issues, at the School Committee meeting. She also updated the committee on efforts to hire someone for the newly created Director of Equity and Inclusion position. Wornun has been working with schools on these issues with colleges and public schools for three decades.
A snowy road in Watertown. The following announcement came from the Watertown Public Schools:
Due to the current ongoing snowstorm and variation in snowfall totals around the area, all schools will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, February 2, utilizing a traditional snow day. All in-person and remote classes are canceled- Preschool through grade 12. All offices are also closed. Decisions regarding snow days are done in consultation with the Department of Public Buildings and are done with the student and staff safety at the center.
The Town of Watertown declared a Snow Emergency due to the impending snow storm forecast to hit the area on Monday afternoon through Tuesday. Also, the Watertown Schools will dismiss early on Monday, but the status of Tuesday’s school day has not been announced, as of 9:50 a.m. Monday. Superintendent of Schools Dede Galdston announced early dismissal times for the Watertown Public Schools on Monday. She did not announce plans for Tuesday, but said if a snow day is declared, there will be no remote learning, it will be like a normal snow day. See more details below.
The number positive tests for COVID-19 is going up for students and staff in the Watertown Public Schools, but they have remained low for those attending in-person. Superintendent Dede Galdston discussed COVID in the schools, as well as the results of the Watertown Public Schools’ surveys taken by parents, students and staff at Monday’s School Committee meeting. The district has 13 students and/or staff who have tested positive for COVID-19, but only three of those people are attending school in-person: two at the Early Steps preschool and one at Watertown High School. A total of 44 students and staff are in quarantine, including 15 at the preschool and 12 at Lowell Elementary School. Since Sept.
The Watertown Public Schools have significantly lower COVID-19 positive test rates than the Town, and more than two-thirds of students and staff are participating in the district’s free testing program. Superintendent Dede Galdston said that the staff and students tested in the district’s pool testing is 0.15 percent, which is below the most recent positivity rate Townwide, which was 4.4 percent as of Dec. 28. She discussed the COVID-19 rates and the testing program, along with what factors will be considered when looking at increasing the amount of in-school learning during Monday’s School Committee meeting. Galdston credits staff and students taking the COVID-19 protocols seriously for the low rates of the virus.
The following announcement was provided by the Watertown Public Schools:
Superintendent Deanne Galdston is pleased to share that Watertown High School has been awarded a $150,000 Skills Capital Grant by the Baker-Polito administration. The grant will support Watertown High’s Engineering Technology Program, the school’s first vocational/technical pathway, which is completed over three years beginning in students’ sophomore year. There are nine courses that students complete as part of the engineering program — engineering design, principles of engineering, digital electronics, civil engineering and architecture, computer integrated manufacturing, environmental sustainability, introduction to robotics, engineering design and development, and all aspects of the engineering industry. The Skills Capital Grant will allow Watertown High School to purchase and install state-of-the-art equipment that students will use to gain hands-on experience with real-world tools used in the engineering field. The equipment includes:
CNC milling equipment3D printersRobotic arm kitsMicroscopesDigital shaking waterbathElectrophoresis kitsBand saw, drill press and laser engraverVEX kits for computer integrated manufacturingNikon AX2S auto level, and more
“The Engineering Technology Program is an exciting way for students to gain practical experience in a growing and ever-changing field, and the Skills Capital Grant will be a tremendous help as we work to make the program more immersive and engaging,” Career Technical Education Coordinator Laura Alderson Rotondo said.