WEYMOUTH — Superintendent Jennifer Curtis-Whipple and Assistant Superintendents Brian Smith and Robert Wargo would like to inform Weymouth Public Schools community members of health measures and guidelines that will be followed for the start of the 2020-21 academic year. The district understands the anxieties, emotions and uncertainties that come with the global COVID-19 pandemic and has put forth a plan that puts safety first while providing for the educational needs of students and the needs of families.
The remote to hybrid learning plan was presented and unanimously approved by all seven School Committee members, including Mayor Robert Hedlund, at the School Committee meeting on Thursday, Aug. 6 with the understanding that the District will monitor health and safety and changes to the plan will be presented as necessary.
Based on recent school committee meetings, the return school plan will also include metrics being discussed with Weymouth Health Department to further determine how in person learning should occur.
More information about the proposed reopening plans can be found here.
“I would like to thank Superintendent Curtis-Whipple, her team and the subgroups that worked on the specifics of this plan,” said School Committee Chair Lisa Belmarsh. “This plan takes into consideration everything the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the CDC asked the districts to consider, and above all it takes into consideration the health and safety of the students, school staff and community at large by considering the current state of COVID-19. We will continue to work throughout the town to help support families in the best ways possible and hope the community will continue to engage in a positive way.”
The district’s planning process includes a comprehensive set of strategies and investments to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus. To ensure the minimization of risk, the district will be following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and local boards of health guidelines.
Additionally, students will be expected to have received a flu vaccine by December 31, 2020 for the 2020-21 flu season, unless either a medical or religious exemption is provided.
“The overall goal for the upcoming school year is to prioritize the health and safety of our staff and students while following the guidance available to us,” Superintendent Curtis-Whipple said. “Over the past couple of weeks, our administration has done thorough walkthroughs with town officials of all of our facilities to ensure that we our sufficiently positioned to reopen our school buildings. Thanks to our working groups, building principals and custodians, staff and administration who have worked tirelessly to prepare our buildings, we are certain that we will be able to welcome our staff, and eventually our students, safely back to school.”
Families are asked to remember and prepare for the following measures that will be in place:
Cleaning and Sanitization
Throughout the summer, the district’s custodial staff not only cleaned and disinfected school buildings in accordance with their regular summer cleaning routine, but also added extra cleaning procedures based on COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
The district has also worked with outside vendors to analyze the HVAC systems in each building to make any modifications necessary regarding air filtration and ventilation. The district has purchased a number of self contained air purification units to supplement filtered air in interior sections of buildings and is also working with the Town on upgrades to the HVAC systems.
As staff and students begin to return to school on a rolling basis, custodial staff will continue to conduct rigorous cleanings of all school buildings as well as providing other preventative measures for students and staff, such as hand washing stations and hand sanitizer, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
Additionally, the custodial staff has also installed sanitization carts in all classrooms that include cleaning/sanitization products such as hand sanitizers and glove storage stations.
All classrooms with high needs students will fully utilize all types of personal protective equipment to ensure the health and safety of their students.
Included in the district’s comprehensive plans for the upcoming school year are measures to ensure social distancing requirements are being met throughout school buildings.
All classrooms, cafeterias, gyms, libraries and other large spaces will be adequately spaced out to promote the greatest amount of social distancing possible. Students and staff will be able to maintain social distancing of up to 6 feet in nearly all classrooms.
One-way traffic and appropriate signage to indicate the flow of traffic will be used where needed.
Nurses’ offices and medical waiting rooms will also feature adequate space to ensure social distancing along with all necessary cleaning/sanitization products. In certain offices, plexiglass shields will be used as well.
All staff and students will be required to conduct self-screenings each day prior to their arrival at school.
The self-screening checklist will include questions regarding out-of-state travel, direct exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, exposure to someone who has symptoms relating to COVID-19, if the person is experiencing any symptoms relating to COVID-19 and if they are feeling well.
Any staff or student feeling unwell should stay home from school.
All students and employees will be using face masks or face coverings. Families are encouraged to have their students start wearing masks at home to help prepare them for the use of masks throughout the school day.
Mask breaks will be given for students periodically during the day, during which they will be able to distance beyond 6 feet from one another while not wearing a mask outdoors or in large, ventilated spaces.
Food and Drink
All meals will be provided individually wrapped throughout the district. Primary school students can expect to eat inside their respective classrooms or cafeterias, while secondary schools can expect to eat in the cafeteria while maintaining a safe social distance from one another. Weather permitting, outside space will also be used.
No water fountains will be available for use as a safety precaution during the school day. “Touchless water stations will still be available.
Prior to the start of the school year, staff and teachers will participate in 10 professional development days to familiarize themselves with proper health and safety etiquette for the upcoming school year.