Wellesley Public School and town health officials feared that the return from the holiday break could result in a rise in COVID-19 cases. Speculation was swirling among parents that a return to full-remote could be in the offing even as they urged the Health and School Department to renew efforts to update COVID-19 dashboard metrics and bring students back to full in-person learning.
Unfortunately, fears that a spike in cases would happen has been realized, and WPS is failing two of its three COVID-19 dashboard metrics, a trigger to reevaluate the educational model in use. Wellesley High School will return to all-remote education on Jan. 11, with a planned return to hybrid schooling on Jan. 19. This means that the winter athletic season has also been put on hold (no practices, games or competitions until Jan. 19 at the earliest).
The School Department briefed the School Committee shortly before Christmas on the successes of its viral testing program, and the funding status of it. One key marketing point by those touting it is that the program has allowed the school system to close down schools in a targeted way, as it is now doing with the high school.
Here’s what Wellesley Public Schools Supt. David Lussier and Health Department Director Lenny Izzo shared in a Friday night memo:
Dear Members of the Wellesley Public Schools Community,
We write to provide you with an update on Covid-19 in WPS this week. We saw positive cases at multiple schools, including single cases at Bates and Upham, two cases at Sprague, and five cases at WMS. All but two of these cases are students. None of these cases involved in-school transmission of the virus.
Our most challenging situation is at Wellesley High School where we documented 10 positive cases this week. All but one of these cases are students. Two of these cases may have emerged through in-classroom transmission, although we cannot confirm that with full certainty. (We will be conducting a more thorough review next week.) The aggregated number of close contacts and other absences has resulted in a significant number of students and staff who cannot attend school in person. We are particularly concerned that we do not have enough staff to safely open the school next week.
After a careful review of all of these facts, the School Department and Health Department have jointly determined that Wellesley High School will transition to full remote learning on Monday, January 11th, with a planned return to hybrid learning on Tuesday, January 19th. All WHS winter sports will be on hold during this time and may also resume on January 19th.
It is absolutely critical that our entire school community work together and adhere to the safety protocols of wearing masks, social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding large group gatherings. It is particularly important that we support our students in doing this anytime they are outside of their homes.
We recognize that this is disappointing news given all of our safety efforts, but we also believe strongly that this response is both appropriate and targeted based on the information we have collected. All other WPS schools will continue to follow their regular hybrid schedules next week.
Thank you for your ongoing efforts to keep our entire community safe.
Dr. David Lussier
Superintendent of Schools
Director, Wellesley Health Department
- Thank you Swellesley Report supporters & on to Year Sweet 16