Wellesley Public Schools Supt. Dr. David Lussier has notified members of the school community that administrators are looking forward to starting the school year with full in-person schedules on Sept. 1, but that the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant has spoiled plans for true normalcy.
“When we adjourned for the summer break, there was a sense of optimism that we were putting the worst of the pandemic behind us and that we were on the path to normalcy,” wrote Lussier in a note shared with us by parents. “Throughout these past few months, however, it’s become clear that the Delta variant of the virus is incredibly serious and will require even more coordinated action across our nation to address. In short, we still have work to do to help ensure a safe return to in-person learning this fall and a safe school year ahead.”
As we’ve reported about this public health issue in recent weeks, the schools boast high vaccination rates among staff and eligible students ages 12. and above. Also, while the Centers for Disease Control recommends schools start the year with indoor mask wearing, state authorities have been less strict about vaccinated students, leaving local school districts to define their own rules
“For the past few weeks, WPS has been in ongoing conversations with our Town Health Department and Board of Health about COVID-19 preparations for the new school year, including the decision to require masks indoors,” Lussier wrote. “As part of these conversations, I have shared the WPS Administration’s recommendation that all students and staff begin the school year wearing masks indoors across the district. We believe it’s prudent to begin the year with this step, particularly as we will no longer be maintaining an across-the-board social distancing standard, nor has the state authorized districts to offer a remote learning option. We think it’s important to revisit this masking requirement–likely after the first month of school– in light of evolving local and state data, to help ensure that this mitigation practice is still needed.”
School and health officials have already begun discussions about such “off-ramping” procedures.
Lussier also informed the WPS community that plans are to take part in. the state’s viral testing program, which includes on-site rapid/antigen tests for those who exhibit COVID symptoms at school as well as for asymptomatic close contacts. The hope is that this will allow more students and staff to remain at school. With vaccination rates high and COVID-19 case numbers low, there’s no need for WPS to return to its gold-plated testing system from the past school year.
Lussier is hopeful. that the Board of Health will approve the school system’s recommendations on Monday, and that the School Committee will approve the plan on Tuesday.
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