Published in the August 27, 2020 edition.


WAKEFIELD — At their meeting this week, members of the School Committee voted to lay two special COVID-19-related policies on the table with the intention of discussing and voting on them at their next meeting on Sept. 8. The School Committee’s practice is to lay proposed new policies on the table for a period of two weeks to allow for further consideration by members and feedback from the public.

One of the policies relates to a requirement for face coverings to be worn while in school. The other policy outlines the procedure to be followed if a school staff member travels outside of Massachusetts to a higher risk state.

The face covering policy defines when masks must be worn, lists exemptions to the requirement and describes consequences for violating the policy.

WPS Policy on Face Coverings

The Wakefield Public School District is committed to providing a safe environment as schools reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to public health experts, one of the best ways to stop the spread of coronavirus and to keep members of our school community safe is the use of face masks or face coverings. Therefore, in accordance with guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), the following requirements are in place until further notice.
A face covering that covers the nose and mouth must be worn by all individuals in school buildings, on school grounds and on school transportation, even when social distancing is observed.
Individuals may be excused from the requirement for the following list of reasons, per CDC guidance. The individual:
• has trouble breathing;
• is unconscious;
• is incapacitated
• cannot remove the mask or face covering without assistance.
In addition, masks or face coverings will not be required for anyone who has a medical, behavioral or other challenge making it unsafe to wear a face mask or face covering. A written note from a physician is required for a requested exemption. Parents may not excuse their child from the face mask requirement by signing a waiver.
Additionally, face masks or face coverings will not be required when appropriate social distancing is enforced (6 feet):
• during mask breaks;
• while eating or drinking;
• during physical education classes;
• while outside under supervision.
Exceptions to this policy under certain circumstances, such as for students with medical, behavioral or other challenges who are unable to wear masks, must be approved by the building principal in consultation with the school nurse or local Board of Health. Face shields or physical barriers may provide an alternative in some instances.
A student’s mask or face covering is to be provided by the student’s family. Staff members are responsible for providing their own face coverings. However, the district will supply disposable face covering for individuals who arrive at a building, or board school transportation, without one.
If students are in violation of this policy, the building principal will consult with the parent/guardians to determine whether an exception is appropriate, or the student may be removed from the school building for in-person learning until such time as they can comply with the requirement or the requirement is lifted.
Violations of this policy by staff will be handled in the same manner as other violations of School Committee policy.
Visitors in violation of this policy will be denied entry to the school/district facility.
This policy will remain in place until rescinded by the School Committee.

The second policy laid on the table at this week’s School Committee meeting outlines the procedures to be followed if a staff member travels outside of “low risk” states as defined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

COVID-19 Employee Policy Update: Recreational Travel & Mandatory Self-Quarantine

Governor Baker has issued travel orders, effective August 1, 2020, that impact the Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces now in effect in Massachusetts. This policy update explains what is now required of all Wakefield Public Schools employees to ensure compliance with these standards. The new travel orders primarily impact use of vacation time, or weekend travel to other states.
WPS employees who choose to travel out of state for any reason must be aware that they will not be permitted to return to work until she/he complies with the Governor’s Order. An employee who leaves the state must, upon return to Massachusetts, fill out a “Massachusetts Travel Form” and quarantine for 14 days. The Town of Wakefield is also requiring employees, after completing the 14-day self-quarantine, to submit a completed Self-Certification of No Symptoms Form to their Supervisor, with a copy to Central Office, prior to the start of their returning to work. The Wakefield Public Schools will waive these conditions if the employee travels to a COVID-19 lower risk state or he/she can produce a negative COVID-19 test result administered no more than 72 hours prior to arriving in Massachusetts. Please refer to the most up-to-date list found here to find the lower risk states.
In order to ensure employee safety during the period when the Governor’s order is in effect, the Town of Wakefield is implementing two additional measures. First, if an employee is requesting time-off from work with the intention of traveling to states that are not lower risk states, they must disclose such travel plans to their immediate supervisor. The Town of Wakefield has the right to deny such vacation requests based on operational need or impact of absence, given that such travel will require the employee to be out of work for an additional two weeks upon return. Employees are therefore strongly urged to reconsider out-of-state travel plans. Second, if an employee must quarantine due to out of state travel, the Town of Wakefield may allow the employee to work remotely during the self-quarantine period. Whether an employee is permitted to work remotely will be determined by his/her Principal or Supervisor and will depend on whether the essential functions of the position can be performed remotely. Employees who are not able to work remotely will be required to use their own time to quarantine for two weeks, although the Town of Wakefield will review to determine whether the employee may be eligible for leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Contact the Central Office for information on FFCRA leave, or any other related questions.
Employees who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are instructed to not report to work.
Employees are reminded that the use of masks or face covering in the work place where individuals cannot socially distance from others remains required.