Board Of Ed Discusses Capital Projects, Vaccines, Student Surveys

After an announcement about capital projects and their impact on new grants, last night’s Board of Education meeting focused primarily on COVID, social health issues, and an upcoming equity study.

Brian Fullenbaum reports that the board learned that 6 capital projects across multiple schools from 1998 to 2006 were not properly closed out. That affects new grants for those schools; there is a 20-year waiting period between grants. The board will explore statutory ways to solve the issue.

The COVID news is relatively good. Westport is no longer in the “high level” risk category; only 9 student cases were reported in the previous 2 weeks.

As of March 1, the vaccine will be offered to all educational staff. Some schools might be used as vaccination sites for staff, perhaps as early as next Thursday.

As previously announced, Staples High School is moving to a 75% in-school model on March 1, meaning students will learn in person 3 days a week. Administrators see a trend of students leaving distance learning, and returning to school.

Board members discussed a possible tutoring program for remote learners at the high school and middle school levels. High school students could be utilized as tutors.

With the number of quarantining students decreasing, school officials have looked at seating charts and bus videos for a more critical analysis of which students should quarantine. Greater accuracy would lead to even fewer quarantines.

A survey from assistant superintendent Michael Rizzo, coordinator of psychological services Dr. Valerie Babich, townwide director of human services Elaine Daignault and Margaret Watt of Positive Direcctions provoked a long discussion.

The survey would be distributed to 7th through 12th graders next month. Questions would address social, emotional and physical health of students, and include a racial injustice module. Parents could opt their children out of the survey.

A long discussion about the survey — concerning privacy and other issues — followed. The issue was not resolved.

Another study, on equity, provoked less discussion. Done in conjunction with NYU, it would collect benchmark data to analyze possible systemic inequalities in education in Westport education. The goal is to create a multi-year plan to address any inequalities. Data would be collected in March, with an action plan ready by September.

After a brief discussion of 2 drafts for the 2022-23 school year calendar, the board heard an early report on a policy on recruiting minority staff members to the district.


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