COVID-19 Notices

March 15, 2020

Dear WRSD Community:

This evening, Governor Baker made an executive order to close all schools in Massachusetts until April 7th.  During this time, Governor Baker will continue to assess the situation and will make modifications associated with the length of the closure depending upon the information available.  The importance of social distancing associated with COVID-19 was shared by the Governor as his main reasoning for his decision. The Wachusett closure will now align with the mandate by Governor Baker and will be closed for the next three weeks.  All schools and our Central Office will be closed to the public beginning tomorrow in order to assist with keeping our staff and community safe.

This weekend, I have been asked about the possibility of remote learning opportunities for our students.  We have been working on plans associated with many different options for helping our students over the next few weeks.  This evening, I participated in a conference call with the Commissioner of Education to discuss the decision by the Governor and next steps moving forward.  I am working closely with the Department of Education and other school districts from across the state to address this very complex issue and your patience is appreciated as we all work through this situation.

Finally, I will continue to update our website and you through emails in the coming days.  Please feel free to reach out to us with your questions.

Darryll McCall, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools



 March 14, 2020

Dear WRSD Community:

First and foremost, I hope all of you are well and are taking the necessary precautions to remain healthy during this trying time.  I can tell you that the decision to close school for the next two weeks was not easy for me or any of the other superintendents in Massachusetts.  This is an unprecedented situation for schools and I am grateful for the support that I have received over the past 24 hours from members of our community.  The positive feedback from families and staff has been overwhelming and I appreciate your support during this challenging time.

The following article was shared with all superintendents this afternoon by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.  I am sharing the article with all of you, as the information shared by Dr. Bitton is timely and relevant for all of us:

Asaf Bitton MD, MPH | Executive Director | Ariadne Labs
Brigham and Women's Hospital | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

I know there is some confusion about what to do next in the midst of this unprecedented time of a pandemic, school closures, and widespread social disruption. I have been asked by a lot of people for my opinion, and I will provide it below based on the best information available to me today. This is my personal and well-informed opinion, and my take on the necessary steps ahead.

What I can say as a physician and public health leader, is that what we do, or don't do, over the next week will have a massive impact on the local and perhaps national trajectory of coronavirus. We are only about 11 days behind Italy and generally on track to repeat what is unfortunately happening there, as well as much of the rest of Europe very soon. At this point, containment through contact tracing and testing is only part of the necessary strategy. We must move to pandemic mitigation through widespread, uncomfortable, and comprehensive social distancing. That means not only shutting down schools, work (as much as possible), group gatherings, and public events. It also means making daily choices to stay away from each other as much as possible to Flatten The Curve (see below).

Our health system will not be able to cope with the projected numbers of people who will need acute care should we not muster the fortitude and will to socially distance each other starting now. On a regular day, we have about 45k ICU beds nationally, which can be ramped up in a crisis to about 93k. Even moderate projections suggest that if current infectious trends hold, our capacity (locally and nationally) may be overwhelmed as early as mid-late April. Thus, the only set of interlinked strategies that can get us off this concerning trajectory is to work together as a community to maintain public health by staying apart.

So what does this enhanced form of social distancing mean on a daily basis, when schools are cancelled?

I can suggest the following:

1. No playdates, parties, sleepovers, or families visiting each other's houses. This sounds extreme because it is. We are trying to create distance between family units and between individuals across those family units. It is uncomfortable, especially for families with small children or for kids who love to play with their friends. But even if you choose only one friend to have over, you are creating new links and possibilities for the type of transmission that all of our school/work/public event closures are trying to prevent. The symptoms of coronavirus take 4-5 days to manifest themselves. Someone who comes over looking well can transmit the virus. Sharing food is particularly risky - I definitely do not recommend that people do so outside of their family. We have already taken extreme social measures to address this serious disease - let's not actively co-opt our efforts by having high levels of social interaction at people's houses instead of the schools. Again - the wisdom of early and aggressive social distancing is that it can flatten the curve above, give our health system a chance to not be overwhlemed, and eventually may reduce the length and need for longer periods of extreme social distancing later (see what has transpired in Italy and Wuhan). We need to all do our part during these times, even if it means some discomfort.

2. Take walks/runs outside, but maintain distance (ideally 6 feet between people outside your family). Try not to use public facilities like playground structures as coronavirus can live on plastic and metal for up to 3 days, and these structures aren't getting regularly cleaned. Try not to have physical contact with people outside of your family. Going outside will be important during these strange times, and the weather is improving. Go outside every day if you can but stay physically away from others. Try not to have kids play with each other (even outside) if that means direct physical contact. Even basketball or soccer involve direct contact and cannot be recommended. If people wish to go outside and have a picnic with other families, I strongly recommend keeping distance of at least 6 feet, not sharing any food at all, and not having direct physical contact. Invariably, that is hard with kids, so these shared, "distant" picnics may be tricky. Do not visit nursing homes or other areas where large numbers of the elderly reside, as they are at highest risk for complications and mortality from coronavirus. We need to find alternate ways to reduce social isolation in these communities through virtual means instead of physical in-person visits.

3. Reduce the frequency of going to stores/restaurants/coffee shops for the time being. Of course trips to the grocery store will be necessary, but try to limit them and go at times when less busy. Consider wearing gloves (not medical - but perhaps washable) and of course washing hands before and after really well. Leave the medical masks and gloves for the medical professionals - we need them. Maintain social distance from folks. Take-out meals and food are riskier than making food at home given the links between the people who prepare food, transport the food, and you. It is hard to know how much that risk is, but it is is certainly higher than making it at home.

4. If you are sick, definitely stay home and contact a medical professional. If you are sick, you should try isolate yourself from the rest of your family within your house as best as you can. If you have questions about whether you qualify or should get a coronavirus test, you can call you primary care team and/or consider calling the Partners Health Care hotline staffed 8AM-8PM every day - 617 724 7000, or the Massachusettes department of public health at 617 983 6800. Don't just walk in to an ambulatory clinic - call first. Obviously if it is an emergency call 911.

5. We need to push our local, state, and national leaders to close ALL schools, events, gatherings, and public spaces now. A local, town by town response won't have the needed effect. We need a statewide, nationwide approach in these trying times. Contact your representative and the governor to urge them to enact statewide closures. As of today, 6 states had already done so. We should be one of them. Also urge them to fund emergency preparedness and make increasing coronavirus testing capacity an immediate and top priority.

I realize there is a lot built into these suggestions, and that they represent a real burden for many people, businesses, and communities. Social distancing is hard and may negatively impact others, especially those who face vulnerablities in our society. I recognize that there is structural and social inequity built in and around social distancing recommendations. We can and must take steps to bolster our community response to people who face food insecurity, domestic violence, and housing challenges, along with the many other social inequities.

I also realize that not everyone can do everything. But we have to try our absolute best as a community, starting today. It is a public health imperative. If we don't do this now voluntarily, it will become necessary later involuntarily, when the potential benefits will be much less than doing so right now.


Finally, I cannot stress enough how professional and caring our staff has been during the past few weeks.  This is a troubling time for all, but our administrators, teachers and support staff have helped our students deal with the uncertainty of this situation with care and support.  I have always known how great our Wachusett community is, but I have been truly inspired by how we have come together to support one another.

Darryll McCall, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

March 13, 2020

Dear WRSD families:

As I explained in my communication yesterday, I participated in a conference call this morning with the Department of Public Health, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and superintendents from across Massachusetts.  This anticipated call did not yield a great deal of new information aside from what school districts are already doing, including guidance around large groups, social distancing, and cleaning.  

I have been contacted by parents, community members, and students urging me to be proactive in closing school in order to stem the possible transmission of COVID-19. Such transmission could put at risk all vulnerable members of our communities.  In the interest of the health and welfare of our students, staff, and community, all schools in the WRSD will be closed March 16th through March 27th. 

As this is an evolving situation, I will provide another update next week after considering any possible future steps for our district. I acknowledge the hardship this may place on families but feel that this is the most prudent action to take as the leader of our school district.  Thank you for your continued patience and understanding in these challenging times.  

Darryll McCall, Ed.D.
​​​​​​​Superintendent of Schools


March 12, 2020

Dear WRSD Community:

I am writing to you this afternoon to let you know that due to the ongoing situation associated with COVID-19, all schools in the WRSD will be closed tomorrow in order to provide our custodial staff the opportunity to clean our schools more extensively.  As I shared with you in my communication last night, I will be participating in a conference call tomorrow morning with the Department of Public Health, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and superintendents from across Massachusetts in order to learn more about the status of COVID-19.  As more information becomes available, I will be in contact with our community about any future decisions. 

Again, I thank you for your continued support and understanding.

Darryll McCall, Ed.D.
Superintendent 


March 11, 2020

Dear Wachusett Families,                            

I would like to update you concerning the most recent developments associated with Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and what our school district and communities are doing to prepare. Last week, I participated in two conference calls with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). The Massachusetts Department of Education (DESE) held a joint conference call with DPH and superintendents on Friday to assist school leaders as we all work toward understanding the implications associated with COVID-19.  The Commissioner of Education, Jeff Riley, shared the following link with information on the most recent DESE guidance for schools (DESE COVID-19).  

Today, I held a meeting with our building principals and central office staff to review our emergency protocols and procedures. At this meeting, we discussed several issues including questions around student absences and the future possibility of the quarantine of students and/or staff.  We emphasized the need for our building level custodians to remain focused on cleaning high touch surfaces including but not limited to door handles, desks, water fountains, and restrooms. Today, a decision was also made to postpone our Special Olympics Day event to a date to be determined.

I encourage everyone to remain vigilant concerning the precautions that we all should take to remain healthy:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

  • When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. You can also cough or sneeze into your sleeve but not your hands.

  • Avoid sharing drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, dishes, towels or other items. Wash these items thoroughly with soap and water after use.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick whenever possible.

  • Students should stay home from school when they are ill. Students should not return to school until they have been fever free for 24 hours.   

On Tuesday, I will be meeting with our local town health officials to discuss both community and school planning concerning this ever-changing situation.

The CDC continues to report that the immediate risk to the general public in Massachusetts remains low at this time (cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov), however new cases of the Coronavirus continue to be diagnosed in the Commonwealth.  CDC states that the current risk assessment is as follows:

  • For most people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. This virus is not currently widespread in the United States.

  • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.

  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.

  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.

  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has more information on the state level concerning details on COVID-19 (www.mass.gov/2019coronavirus).  At this writing, there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Worcester County.  We have updated our website (WRSD) to include pertinent information pertaining to COVID-19, and will continue to assess this rapidly evolving situation.  As always, we appreciate the compassion and support of the Wachusett community. 

Darryll McCall, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools