Scarice: How A Community Works … Together

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice offered this update today:

It’s been a very busy week, and I would like to provide the school community with some updates.

“We’re Tired of Being A Part of History”
Eight words uttered by one of our middle schoolers recently. Eight words that capture the sentiments and experience of a generation. For me, these are 8 words that scream, “Enough!!”

A generation of post-9/11 babies, raised in schools pierced by the haunting of Sandy Hook. Digital dopamine dispensers at their fingertips. The destructive funhouse mirror of social media staring them in the face. Overly exposed to images of violence and sex. Social unrest. A generational pandemic. Enough!

“If you can’t give children optimism, then what are you doing?” – Matt Haig
I awoke Wednesday morning to a news briefing in my inbox titled, “‘Covid zero’ isn’t going to happen — but normal life still can.”

The optimism that was forecasted weeks ago is just beginning to be realized.

It is true that COVID, like other coronaviruses, will circulate for years.  Yet, the expectation of managing COVID, similar to the seasonal flu, is just before us.

Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice.

Infection rates have dropped precipitously since January, vaccines are racing to communities, treatments are proving to be effective, and testing is ubiquitous.  Although “COVID zero” is not in our immediate future, the return to an approximation of normalcy is.

As was noted in the news briefing that landed in my inbox, “The seasonal flu does not grind life to a halt. It does not keep people from flying on airplanes, eating in restaurants, visiting their friends or going to school and work.”

While Mother Nature’s traditional New England winter begins to recede, and daylight savings approaches with sunsets closer to 7 p.m. than school dismissal, there is reason for optimism as the anticipation intensifies.

How a Community Works…Together
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” – Fred Rogers

Monday morning I rang a bell. That bell was heard by leaders in our community: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, Deputy Fire Chief Mike Kronick, WPS human resources director John Bayers, WPS supervisor of health services Sue Levasseur.

In a matter of 3 days these community leaders imagined, planned and designed a comprehensive school-based vaccination clinic for all WPS personnel. My words could never do this justice, but it was an illustration of how a community works…together.

School-Based Vaccination Clinics
Through a partnership with the Westport Weston Health District, and in collaboration with Weston and Easton, I could not be more enthused to announce that our first vaccination clinic will be held Wednesday, March 3 in the Staples High School fieldhouse from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for members of the Westport Public Schools team.

The plan is to hold clinics each successive Wednesday, based on vaccine availability, until all personnel who want to be vaccinated have had the opportunity. By working across 3 school districts, there is a better chance of securing adequate vaccines as quickly as possible.

Per Governor Lamont, priority must be given to educators who have direct contact with schools and students. All district employees, food service employees, transportation providers, and those who have direct contact with schools and students, will be eligible to receive the vaccine as of March 1 at any location, including the school-based clinic.

We will proceed as quickly as possible in having as many personnel vaccinated, which means that we may have remote days when vaccines are being offered, and we may have to factor in non-school days if side effects from the second dose result in staffing issues.

Remote Learning Day March 3
In order to mobilize our personnel and vaccinate as many members of the WPS school community as possible, March 3 will be a remote learning day for all students, pre-K to 12. It will be synchronous for students, as staff members with scheduled vaccine appointments will alert their students to transition to asynchronous work when they go for their shots. Students will resume synchronous learning once the staff member returns to their assignment.

Additional information regarding upcoming clinics, and how they may or may not impact the school day, is forthcoming.

What’s Next
As our implementation of full in-person learning continues, pre-K to 8, and the high school model increases access to in-person learning for Staples students on Monday (March 1), we will continue to monitor our progress in advancing forward in a measured, safe way.

Vaccinations are a significant leap in the direction of increasing a sense of normalcy for our students. Updates will be provided on further access at Staples and end of the year events. Let the optimism grow and impart it to the children around you.

Stay tuned…

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