Back to school: WWS works to ensure a safe return to school


Westfield Washington Schools established three separate committees to ensure the safety of students and staff upon returning to school.

“As we move forward to the new school year, we have three different committees – health and safety, an operations committee and a teaching and learning committee,” Supt. Sherry Grate said. “So, what we have done, the teaching and learning committee has taken all information from a staff survey and from a family survey and used that to look at what our needs might be as we return to school.”

Grate said the district is trying to look three to four weeks out at a time, because it knows the COVID-19 pandemic constantly evolves.

“Everything is fluid and changing, and there have been plans we made and the next week, or even the next day, we have to rethink our plans,” Grate said.

After the state accelerated reopening after July 1, the district was able to provide programs such as summer camp and athletics.

“It was our first opportunity to put some of those different practices into place,” Grate said.

In addition to being flexible when it comes to planning, the district also signed on with a new cleaning service.

“They have added a significant investment in the cleaning equipment,” Grate said.

The cleaning services transitioned to the new provider June 1.

WWS conducted a survey to gather responses on which families would prefer in-person learning versus virtual learning. As of press time, 88 percent of families said their students planned to return to school, 11 percent plan to participate in eLearning and 1 percent said they were no longer enrolled at WWS.

The district also conducted a survey to gauge responses from families planning to send their students on the bus. For that survey, 71 percent said students planned to ride buses, and 29 percent said they would not.

For students who do ride buses, there will be assigned seating and siblings will be assigned to sit together. Masks will be required to be worn on buses and in the district buildings when social distancing is not possible.

“We are asking students to include two masks as part of their back-to-school supplies, but we will also have masks,” Grate said.

The district will not screen students, but parents are expected to screen their children before sending them to school. If a child has symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses, the parents are instructed to keep the student home and contact their health care provider.

Grate said the district is still in the midst of modifying its plan for those students opting for virtual learning.

“We don’t know what that’s going to look like yet because we are still modifying the plan,” she said.

School will return Aug. 13. Late Wednesday starts will remain in place for teacher professional development.

For the full Return of the Rocks plan, visit

Supt. Sherry Grate wears a mask. Students and staff will be required to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible. (Submitted photo)

Beginning to plan in March

In March, when students were unable to attend school in person, Supt. Sherry Grate said all the district’s teams were mobilized to provide technology support or hotspots to families and teachers in need.

“We immediately began cleaning our facilities and a comprehensive plan was put into place for cleaning and food service, as we immediately started providing meals to our families (in need),” Grate said. “As we were progressing through that, whether through instructional coaches or a technology coach, additional instruction was provided to teachers. As we transitioned into summer, we conducted a staff survey and a parent survey to get feedback on how the experience has been for students or families or for our teachers.”


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