Scarice Offers Update, Preview On New School Year

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice says:

The entire Westport Public Schools team has been gearing up for an incredible start to our school year. In a matter of days the 2021-2022 school year will be underway.

Before our year starts I’d like to share some more updates:

New District Website
We have launched a new district website. As you scroll the site you will find a much more modern appearance with easy-to-use buttons. This effort is just Step 1 in the process of improving our overall online presence.  The updating and overhaul of current content on our site is underway, and a plan to add weekly content and “news” about our schools will begin when the school year starts.

We will engage our district Facebook page next week as we share district “news” through this social media outlet. Finally, we are aiming for an October launch of a new district app that parents can customize and add to their smartphone.

Communication is a high priority for our district, and these tools will further advance our communication improvement efforts.

Outdoor Lunch for Students
The district recently secured formidable tents to provide students an opportunity to eat lunch outside for the first few months of the school year, in an effort to thin out the number of students in the cafeteria. These structures provide an opportunity for fresh air and appropriate cover in the event of rain and wind. I suspect the outdoor lunch will be a big hit with our kids,

Vaccines for All WPS Employees
As you are aware, the Governor issued an executive order requiring all pre-K-12 employees to have the Covid-19 vaccine. Routine testing will be enforced for any employees exempt from this provision due to religious or medical reasons.

Vaccines for All WPS Visitors
During the 2020-21 school year, school visitors were prohibited. In keeping with our approach of reevaluating our strategies every 4-6 weeks while we confront the pandemic, we will add and remove layers of mitigation as the conditions permit.  At this point, we will incrementally welcome back visitors to our schools this year with certain restrictions.

Given that we are requiring all WPS employees to show proof of vaccination, we are also requiring all visitors to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to be permitted to visit school buildings. Visitors in the buildings will be limited to educational or school business needs and will need to be approved by the building administration. Access for contractors and vendors will be limited to essential building operations. For parents attending Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meetings, Section 504 meetings, and other required meetings, we will offer virtual meetings, but also host in-person opportunities with proof of vaccination.

Superintendent of School Thomas Scarice was vaccinated last spring. (Photo/John Bayers)

Back to School Night
As with last year, we will host our Back to School Night virtually. We are in the process of determining the most secure and reliable manner for our network to accommodate a live session for parents on Back to School Night. Additional information will be provided in the next week or so with finalized plans; however, I can assure you that the night will be virtual.

Provisions for Unmasked Teachers During Instruction  
Last week I informed the school community that the state Department of Public Health has released the latest guidance that permits teachers to remove their masks during instruction, provided they are vaccinated, all students are wearing masks, and the teacher is at the front of the classroom at least six feet from any student. Although I welcome this change as we start the year, after some feedback, I am recommending that we wait a few weeks into the school year before implementing this provision.

We will add and remove mitigating measures as the conditions warrant. This provision will be revisited later in September and will either be implemented or delayed, depending on the virus conditions.

Thank you for your support of our efforts. I can assure you that the team is energized and ready to kick off the school year, and to provide your child with an outstanding experience. Again, as we continue to confront the pandemic, we will do our best to reassess our approach every 4-6 weeks with an eye to peeling back layers of mitigation when possible so that our children can fully return to normalcy in our schools.

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