A message from Amber Bock

A message from Amber Bock
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August 19, 2021


Dear Westborough Families and Colleagues,


In just two weeks we will be welcoming students back for the opening of the 2021-22 school year!  We are excited to greet students on Wednesday September 1st as we welcome the beginning of a much more normal school year for everyone.  After several weeks of summer to regroup and relax, the faculty is prepared and energized to have all of our faculty and students together for full time programming. 


As you prepare for returning there are several informational items you will want to refer to.  Most important will be school based communications from teachers and building principals.  The other important documents are the school calendar and the Covid opening protocols presented below in an FAQ format.  The protocols were developed collaboratively with the Westborough Board of Health and will be refined as necessary as the year moves forward.  Please be sure to provide us with your comments and/or questions pertaining to the protocols. 


I want to acknowledge and thank the community for our exceptionally high vaccination rate (see table below) and the positive choices that have maintained our community health.  At the close of the school year Westborough faculty and staff had similarly high percentages of vaccination. As we move into the start of the school year we will be obtaining new data on all faculty. 


While we are undoubtedly in a much better place, complications stemming from the pandemic will continue into the fall and there will be a range of feelings about our decisions and guidance for how to best provide appropriate safety and a high quality learning and work environment. The masks optional policy at this summer’s Extended Year Program and the Community Education Program worked well.  During this time, two cases of Covid were reported and we had no internal spread of cases.  While this is very good news, we remain aware of the concerns regarding the Delta variant. 



Therefore, for at least the first three weeks of school there will be required masking for all staff and students. If infection rates remain low the Westborough Public Schools will ask the  Westborough Board of Health to adopt the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Guidelines.   These guidelines have been adopted by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well.  The guidelines support  flexibility in masking for fully vaccinated individuals in communities like Westborough which have high vaccination rates and low incidence of illness.  


We are all exceptionally excited to see so many aspects of schooling returning to normal.  Things will not be completely typical but we anticipate that as the year progresses, more and more normalcy will return.  


Take care and enjoy these last days of summer.  

Amber Bock


Westborough Public Schools

Reopening FAQ’s 


What are the guidelines for masking at the start of school?


  • Following our staged planning model from last year, we will open with all faculty and students wearing masks for the first three weeks of school. 
  • Masks are not necessary outdoors and may be removed while eating indoors.  
  • All faculty and students will confirm vaccination status over the first two weeks of school to provide current data to the Board of Health so they can assess the best recommendation on guidelines.  
  • Masks will be worn in the nurse's office. Per DPH and DESE.
  • Similar to last year, The Board of Health, the School Administration, and The School Committee will routinely review town data and make recommendations when necessary. 
  • Masks will be worn on the bus. Per National transportation guidelines.
  • All individuals need to keep a mask available at all times.  Masks will be readily  available at all schools for anyone who needs one.


What happens after the first three weeks of school? 


  • If we get confirmation from the Board of Health that community and school benchmarks remain strong, we would seek their approval to shift to the DPH guidelines of optional masking for vaccinated individuals starting September 20th. 

    Department of Public Health Guidelines:

  • All students in PreK through grade 6 will wear masks when indoors, except students who cannot do so due to medical conditions or behavioral needs. 
  • All unvaccinated staff in all grades, unvaccinated students in grades 7 and above, and unvaccinated visitors will wear masks indoors, in alignment with the statewide advisory on masking.
  • As noted by DPH guidelines: “Any individual at higher risk for severe disease from COVID or with a household member who is at high risk is encouraged to mask regardless of vaccination status consistent with the updated DPH Advisory on Face Coverings and Masks.
  • It should be expected that students will mask when requested in the school setting as needed at different times even if DPH guidelines are adopted.

Will physical distancing still be required?


  • No. WPS classrooms will return to a more normal set up.  Students will be able to work in groups and interact as they did in the past.  We will do our best to maintain additional physical distances throughout the day when moving through the building and when sitting in working groups. 
  • Lunch will have additional physical distances where possible to allow for three feet or more.   Each school has varied options to space seating, rotate lunch blocks to lower overall numbers, or allow outdoor eating options. 


Will there be assigned seats?


  • Yes when it is productive.  Our school based administrative teams and teachers did a great job to manage seating so that they could contact trace if needed, while still giving students flexibility. In classrooms and at lunch we will maintain the needed seating information to contact trace if necessary. 
  • There will be no assigned seats on buses, however, students must be masked. As such, individuals who are masked on buses when windows are open are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols. Per DPH and DESE.


What about other mitigations such as ventilation and cleaning?


  • As suggested by DPH, Westborough will continue to maintain ventilation protocols put in place at all schools last year.  WPS will continue to use additional air purifiers in classrooms and cafeteria areas.  
  • As feasible, we will continue hand hygiene practices, regular cleaning practices, and continue policies for students and staff to stay home when sick. 


Will there be any Covid-19 testing programs implemented this school year?


  • Yes, this year Westborough will implement diagnostic testing, using the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test, provided by the state. It is an important tool for use in testing asymptomatic close contacts as part of updated quarantine guidance (see below). Diagnostic testing is especially important this year, as we head into the cold and flu season. The simple shallow nose swab allows for the district to provide a “test and stay” plan for students and staff who are identified as asymptomatic close contacts. Under test and stay, asymptomatic close contacts will have the option to remain in school and be tested daily with BinaxNOW for at least seven days. 
  • Building nurses will continue to provide guidance on quarantine needs and PCR testing when necessary. 


Will there be contact tracing and do students still need to quarantine this year?

  • Yes we will be required to contact trace for distances of less than three feet, where students sat together for a time extended beyond ten minutes.
  • Asymptomatic vaccinated staff and students are exempt from quarantine. 


How will the district be communicating updates and information this year regarding Covid protocols and guidelines? 


  • WPS will continue to post weekly benchmark data on any cases and quarantine numbers as we did last year.  This information will be reviewed with the Board of Health to adjust our protocols. These updates will continue until the Board of Health indicates they are no longer necessary.  
  • Once the school year is underway, the Superintendent’s Advisory Council will meet every two weeks and share questions or feedback from families to the School Committee Chair and the Superintendent.  The FAQ will go out to families as needed to keep everyone updated.


What about a return to all of the special events that happen at schools during the year?


  • Yes we will return to special events such as concerts, dances, open houses and the other happenings both students and families enjoy.  That is one of the big celebrations of a return to much more typical schooling.  As the date for these various events approach, we will provide updates on any modification that we will make to meet any required guidelines.  


Will I be able to volunteer in my child’s school again this year?


  •  Yes, but not during the first month of this school year.  Once everything is running smoothly we are excited to get our volunteers back in action!


What about sports?


  • Westborough is excited for the sports season to begin!  We will play all sports following the MIAA guidelines with guidance from our local Board of Health as we proceed. Communications will come from  Athletic Director, Johanna DiCarlo.


What safety guidelines are in place for music ensembles?


  • Indoors Rehearsals: All students K-12 will wear masks while playing a wind instrument or singing in a choral rehearsal. Social Distancing will be regulated to a minimum of three feet whenever possible. Brass & Woodwind instruments will also have bell covers for rehearsals through our Fall concert performances. 
  • Outdoor Rehearsals: No masking or social distancing is required at this time, however consideration will be given for adequate spacing for students to maintain a safe learning environment. 

These guidelines are in place to ensure a safe and successful start of the school year for all K-12 musicians. Adjustments to these policies will be considered based upon recommendations from the Board of Health. 


Is there a remote learning option for WPS this year?


  •  The Commissioner of Education has set a clear requirement of in person learning and will not support remote learning as meeting state requirements.   

 “Districts will no longer be able to offer remote learning as a standard learning model.  As noted above, districts and schools will be required to be in-person, full-time, five days a week this fall. Pathways that existed prior to the pandemic for offering virtual learning to individual students in limited cases will remain available to districts and schools. These include home/hospital tutoring programs due to a documented medical condition, 3 single district virtual schools, and other narrow circumstances.