WILMINGTON — The Superintendent’s Report last Wednesday night at the School Committee meeting began with an update from Wilmington Board of Health Director Shelly Newhouse. Newhouse reported that the town has seen a 3.6 percent COVID-19 positivity rate over the previous week, with 84 positives and more than 200 in quarantine at the time.
Newhouse said most of the town’s cases are spreading through small household gatherings. She urged people to follow the state’s travel order and guidance on meeting in person with Thanksgiving coming up.
Director of Nursing Services Doreen Crowe pointed out that there haven’t been any known transmissions of COVID-19 in schools at all. She said she’s proud of the commitment that the WPS community has shown in washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks.
Affirming the effectiveness of following protocols in schools, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand also shared that there were three cases requiring students and staff to quarantine as of that day.
Brand went on to discuss the state’s opinion on in-person learning, wherein Governor Charlie Baker expressed a preference for in-person learning with evidence that less than six feet of distancing is safe. The superintendent mentioned that many classrooms don’t allow full capacity for in-person learning at a three-foot distance.
M. J. Byrnes commented that it seems to be contradicting the 10-person limit per house also issued from the governor to say that all students should be receiving in-person instruction, especially with the increasing of cases.
The last part of the report was for Brand to announce that he’s reviving the School Start Time Committee. He said the committee, which began last year to examine, evaluate, and research school start times, was doing good work before the shut down.
“I have called a meeting before winter break and asked people to familiarize themselves with the work that they were doing,” he continued.
Going forward, he said he’d ask the committee for a final result with recommendations in March and a final decision from the School Committee by the end of April.
When the meeting moved on to the School Reopening Update, the superintendent shared the results of the Learning Model Survey that was sent out to all WPS parents and guardians. In total, there were 58 requests to change: 42 from hybrid to remote, and 16 from remote to hybrid. Brand said some changes are already underway and some are taking more time to accommodate.
He then thanked the principals working hard to make these learning model changes. He also said he thought, hearing from principals, that there would be more requests than what the survey returned.
Jenn Bryson shared that she was expecting more requests from remote to hybrid, given that written comments suggested that the high school students in cohort C aren’t getting enough synchronous time. She’d like to see the School Committee and the school administration give cohort C more attention in the future.
With regard to the town’s health metrics, Brand established that the guidance from Gov. Baker is, in fact, being followed even though the chosen learning mode is hybrid.
“We are prioritizing in-person learning within the guidance put forth,” he said.
Where families opted for fully remote, they’re still able to have that learning model as an option.
Next, he put up a list on screen of all of the extracurricular activities currently offered or soon to be offered. While the number of offerings is different this year, he said that any staff members who have come up with a plan to hold their extracurricular activities have been permitted to do so virtually.
Some of the offerings shown were things like Academic Decathlon, Art Club, Drama Club, Fitness Club, Student Council, and Literary Magazine.
The final item in the reopening update was about the winter season of athletics. He gave an update that the final decision would come from the Middlesex League later in the week about what sports would be finalized and offered over the winter. Brand implied the list of sports that Wilmington could participate in this winter season would be shorter than usual.