Parents, School Committee Push for Reopening Schools Full Time

Get kids back in school full time — that was the message to Watertown Public School officials from the vast majority of parents and the School Committee on Monday night. Many parents discussed how negative an experience remote learning has been for their children, with students falling behind academically and some not engaging in class at all. Others said their children have shown signs of depression and despair due to not being in school with their classmates. Superintendent Dede Galdston spoke about the district’s planning to reopen the schools for all in-person learning, and said planning has started to make that happen by sometime in April, but she said concerns remain about whether it can be done safely. She mentioned planning for how to hold lunches with social distancing requirements and added she hopes to have all teachers vaccinated by the time students return.

Several Positions Would be Added in Watertown School’s “Level Service” Budget

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 Stand Behind Decision to Delay Start of Hybrid After Release of State Audit

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 Schools Begin Anti-Racism Training, Looking to Hire Equity Director

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.

Snow Day for Watertown Schools on Tuesday

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.

Watertown Declares Snow Emergency for Nor’easter, Schools Dismissing Early

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.

COVID-19 Numbers Low in Watertown Schools, Officials Look at When to Increase In-School Time

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.