While some Massachusetts public schools are delaying their restarts by hours or days this week in light of rising COVID-19 infections, Wellesley Public Schools return to in-person classes as scheduled on Monday, Jan. 3.
The school system has recorded almost 200 positive cases over the past two weeks (Dec. 19-Jan. 2, and suspended winter sports at Wellesley High due to a high number of cases among student-athletes. The Child Lab also was closed at the high school heading into the break because of COVID-19 cases. More data should be available soon on school cases, as the usual testing procedures were not in effect during the holiday break and the school system has limited visibility into at-home testing results.
WPS staff was been supplied with rapid tests made available for free through the state on Sunday, and is being outfitted with some 36,000 KN95 masks that should last for the next five or six weeks. The in-school masking mandate remains in effect through mid-January, and at this rate, it’s hard to believe that’s going to be lifted.
Many thanks to our staff volunteers who worked throughout the morning to disassemble and then reassemble rapid test kits from the state for distribution to our colleagues at WHS today. pic.twitter.com/vKA9vmNrrE
— David Lussier (@WellesleySupt) January 2, 2022
“We would have loved to have tested all our students before opening tomorrow, but the state only gave us tests for staff,” Wellesley High Principal Dr. Jamie Chisum wrote to the school community on Sunday. The administration will be watching school attendance of staff and students carefully, he added.
Wellesley Public Schools have been taking part in several COVID-19 testing programs through the state, including symptomatic, test-and-stay, and weekly surveillance testing for preK-6th grade. Last school year Wellesley Public Schools ran a unique surveillance testing program that benefitted from big-time fundraising.
The school system says efforts to keep students safe upon return include rearranging lunch locations and setups to keep people spaced further apart.
This and other measures don’t go far enough for some parents. “Truly amazing—thousands of kids return—and no testing,” one parent wrote.
According to a Dec. 31 memo issued by the school system and health department, “Masks remain a key element of our efforts to stop the spread of the virus, however not all masks are effective. We strongly encourage all members of our community to wear, at a minimum, a multi-layered surgical mask while indoors in public spaces. Given the highly transmissible variant of the virus we are currently facing, we encourage everyone to consider upgrading their masks to the KN95 or N95 masks, which offer further protection.” They also reminded families to ensure masks are worn properly.
The school system also pledges to released updated and more defined vaccination data on students and staff.
Among the public school systems delaying their returns to allow more time for testing and results are Burlington, Cambridge, and Lexington. Other area public schools, including Natick and Framingham, plan to return as scheduled on Monday. The state has also supplied self-test to residents of 100 municipalities selected based on the proportion of families experiencing financial hardship.
Private school plans passed along to us by a reader include those of the Park School in Brookline, which requires students to take a rapid antigen test at home before coming to school on Monday, and Winsor School, which starts back with a week of remote learning, with extracurriculars remote, postponed, or canceled (remote learning is not an option for Massachusetts public schools in 2021-2022 except under specific circumstances, per state rules).