Category Archives: Education

Thomas Scarice: New Schools Superintendent, In His Own Words

Last month — just days before Connecticut’s public schools were closed due to the coronavirus — Madison superintendent Thomas Scarice sent this note to all families in town. 

Last night, the Board of Education approved his appointment as Westport’s new superintendent of schools. It’s too early for “06880” to interview him. But this note — posted to Facebook’s “Westport Front Porch” page by Maria Vailakis-Wippick — offers great insight into our new education chief. 

In announcing his hiring, the Board of Ed called him “a great communicator,” “intelligent,” “driven,” “innovative,” “warm” and “engaging.” Based on the message below, they nailed it.

We are about to embark on a radical departure from the normal teaching and learning process that our professionals have been trained in, and employed in our classrooms for years. This is being done over a couple of weeks in March during a global pandemic in which we are largely forbidden to connect in person. This has never been done before, nor has any educator been prepared for this moment. The conditions are almost impossible and that is not lost on me. However, there is profound focus and energy among our teachers in launching this once, and doing it right. That said, there will be obstacles and challenges. We ask that all families patiently work with us and remain flexible.

Next week, there will be further information about the scope of our distance/online learning program, set to launch March 30, at the conclusion of this short-term closure window. Our goal is to successfully launch this program while encouraging direct contact with your child’s teacher along the way. Please continue to use our optional interim learning experiences on our website in the meantime. Stay tuned for detailed information next week.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

Some Final Thoughts
In February of 2016 something magical took place in the scorched arid region of California known as Death Valley. Following years of drought and unrelenting heat, one of the hottest and driest places on the planet experienced a breathtaking phenomenon. Millions of seeds lying dormant buried under the dusty desert soil collectively burst to life, carpeting the floor of this barren stretch with over 20 species of magnificent wildflowers for miles and miles in what is now called a “super bloom.” These flowers have laid dormant for years, silently waiting for the conditions to call them back to life.

As our connections and sense of purpose begin to escape us during this global crisis, nerves fray and a sobering reality settles in. It is becoming increasingly likely that school, the place of connections and purpose for our children, and the soul of any community, will be closed for the remainder of the year. For now, it will be replaced by a virtual facsimile that could never replicate the warmth of a teacher’s words, the sense of belonging our children crave. Sadly, it is also likely that we will all eventually know someone who contracts this virus, and perhaps, we will all know someone who we may lose to this virus. It is precisely in times like this where we can see the very worst and the very best in each other.

The generation we serve in our schools today was born under the shadow of 9/11, raised in terror of Sandy Hook, seduced by the perverted temptations of social media and dopamine hits, and now finds itself facing a generational crisis, all the while aching for the adults in their lives to show them their very best, in the most challenging of times. Their childhood innocence, a natural endowment, has been violently stripped. They are looking for the very best in us right now. They are counting on us.

We tend to find exactly what we are looking for in life. If you want to see the best in each other, now is the time to look for it. It is there. Perhaps it is dormant, like the millions of wildflowers below the surface of Death Valley. Right now, the conditions are right. The conditions all around us summon the very best in us, even if it lays dormant, back to life.

There are acts of kindness happening all around us, big and small. There are people subordinating their comforts for the welfare of others. If we fasten our attention to these people, and to their examples, perhaps our measure of humane kindness can outpace the spread of this contagion. The very best in us is there if we look for it. If you look around, you’ll see countless young eyes watching us, counting on us.

I want to assure you that those who care for your children every day in our schools accept the responsibility to help our community through this crisis. It is time to see our very best. If we can find a way to meet the needs of your child, perhaps it will then cascade some semblance of normalcy and solace to your family, and then perhaps throughout our entire community.

The very best in us may be out in the open, or, like the millions of wildflowers beneath the floor of the desert, it may lie dormant. Now is the time for our best to come out. Perhaps they have never counted on us any more than right now.

 

Emma Heads Straight To EMS

Emma Straight’s interest in medicine was strong. Certified as an EMT when she was just 16, she spent 20 hours a week with the Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. Her usual shift was 6 to 11 p.m.

In addition, at Staples High School Emma founded and led the Prosthetic Hand Club.

After graduating last spring, she headed west to Santa Clara University. She intended to major in biology. But an Introduction to Public Health class in the first quarter — covering the spread of disease, our healthcare system and the socioeconomic impact of illness — sparked her interest.

She switched majors, to public health.

Emma Straight

Emma had no idea of the public health crisis just around the corner. But when her college shut down in mid-March and she returned home, she knew exactly what to do.

On March 16, Emma headed to WVEMS. She’s been working 3 shifts a week ever since.

“I always felt comfortable there,” she says of the Jesup Road headquarters next to the police station. “It was a calming place for me.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still is.

Despite the public health crisis, it’s also a very safe place, Emma emphasizes.

“I’m really, really proud of our leaders, like Marc Hartog and Kevin Doherty,” she says. “They prioritize our safety, and give us a lot of up-to-date information. We have to be safe. If we get sick, we can’t help anyone.”

The safety protocol begins with detailed questions asked by dispatchers, for every call. Many are now COVID-related. EMTs must be certain of every situation, before they arrive.

Once on scene, EMTs keep their distance while asking their screening questions. If a patient shows symptoms of the virus, they don protective gear.

But, Emma says, “Our patient care is the same as always. It hasn’t changed at all.

“We’re super cautious,” she reiterates. “We don’t know who has been exposed to what. Everyone is on edge. But there are so many precautions, we feel good.”

The public has been great about donating masks too, Emma notes.

When she was in high school, Emma felt good about giving back through WVEMS. Now rather than just sitting home, she feels “really, really good. I feel like I’m really able to do something, at a very tough time.”

Madison Educator Is Westport’s New Schools Superintendent

Proclaiming himself fully aware of Westport’s challenges — and eager to get started — Thomas Scarice was named tonight as Westport’s new superintendent of schools.

For the last 8 years, Scarice has served as superintendent in Madison — an affluent and high-achieving New Haven suburb.

But he’s no stranger to Fairfield County education. Prior to that post, Scarice was assistant superintendent of the Weston public schools.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

Before their unanimous (and socially distant) online vote, the 7 Board of Education members praised the new schools’ head with enthusiasm and passion.

He was hailed as “a great communicator,” “intelligent,” “driven,” “innovative,” “a strategic thinker,” “warm” and “engaging.”

Interim superintendent David Abbey — who also was warmly praised for his leadership over the past year — called him a “thought leader.” In fact, Abbey said, “I follow him on Twitter.”

The board noted that even among a “truly exceptional pool” of candidates, Scarice stood out.

In his remarks, the new education leader acknowledged both the coronavirus crisis, and the difficulties Westport public schools have endured. (In the past two years, Coleytown Middle School was closed due to mold, and former superintendent Colleen Palmer resigned after a tumultuous 3-year tenure.)

But our recent national crisis, he said, underscore the crucial role that public schools play. Referencing both 9/11 and Sandy Hook, he noted that helping students in times like these are “part of my calling as an educator.”

Scarice thanked search consultant Joe Erardi, the Board of Education, Dr. Abbey (“an educational giant — a Yoda”), and praised the Westport staff he will soon lead.

Scarice — whose Twitter profile reads “Husband of Kerry, Father of Ella, Owen, and Gavin. Superintendent of schools. Mission driven to transform schooling. Child-centered is the only way I roll” — begins officially on July 1.

Thomas Scarice tonight on the Board of Education livestream, moments after being Westport’s new superintendent of schools.

COVID-19 Roundup: Property Tax Info; Ringing Bells; Harrowing Survival Story; Online Fitness And Yoga; Free Resumes; More

Several readers have wondered about Westport real estate and personal property tax abatement or deferral (they’re due today — April 1. No fooling). I asked 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He says:

For several weeks, our town (and others) have been exploring deferment alternatives for property owners who can demonstrate genuine hardship. This is still a work in process.

Among other things, the governor must take executive order steps to allow a local community the option to modify property tax payment penalties and deadlines. I have been in direct touch with Governor Lamont on this issue. In the meantime the April 1 quarterly tax payment date still remains, but as always, allows 30 days (until May 1) to pay without penalty.

I have not heard if utility companies plan to offer any special dispensation for hardship cases. Our Human Services Department regularly works with residents on utility payment plans if true need can be demonstrated.

In related news, Governor Lamont announced yesterday a 90-day grace period on mortgage payments, and a 60-day delay on foreclosures. Homeowners should contact their banks and/or mortgage companies for details.


Across the country, communities are coming together to ring bells in support of medical personnel and other frontline workers.

From 5:00 to 5:02 p.m. tonight, Westport families are asked to “joyously sound a bell, chime, bang pans, etc. as a reminder that while we may be physically separated, we remain united. Let’s make this a gesture of gratitude to all the people helping us overcome this present situation: the police department, fire department, first responders, town officials, teachers and healthcare workers, including the many Westport parents who leave their families to care for those in need at hospitals and medical offices.”

Greens Farms and Assumption Churches — and perhaps others — will join in. Ring them bells! (Hat tips: Jaclyn Lindsey-Noble and Staples High School PTA)

In addition, reader Mary Beth Stirling urges Westporters to fly the American flag. That — and donations to any organization that helps those in need — are both a show of support, and a way to teach children that whatever they can do (including staying home to protect lives) is a patriotic act.

Green’s Farms Congregational Church has a great bell to ring.


“06880” readers know Heather Bauer for her tips on eating healthy in restaurants.

Now the rest of America knows her as a COVID-19 survivor. The 42-year-old nutritionist/mother of 3/ runner of 15 marathons was in great health — until she attended a party, and got infected.

Two days ago — just a week after leaving Yale New Haven Hospital, where she spent 9 harrowing days — Heather told her story on CNN.

It’s a scary tale of fever, migraine headaches, a full body rash, even possible meningitis. It’s also a tale of great care, by a wonderful medical staff. Click below to watch. (Hat tip: Ben Sturner)


Patty Kondub’s great water aerobics classes have been beached by the coronavirus. So have dozens of other Westport Weston Family YMCA offerings, in strength training, yoga — you name it.

But members can still get exercise — on land, at home. There are offerings for all ages, in every imaginable category. Click here for info.

PS: Yesterday, I (coincidentally) got a call from the Y. They were just checking in on all members — seeing how we are, and what we need.

I really need to swim. But failing that, I’d like to say this: THANKS, Y! What a nice, friendly, community touch!

A motivational message from Patty Kondub.


Speaking of exercise, Kaia Yoga’s classes are now all online. Many are inexpensive. There are also free kids’ classes and meditations — great for parents looking for productive activities.

Kaia Yoga — which has long provided classes for Bridgeport school children –has been hit hard by the coronavirus. They employ over 70 teachers.

Click here for a list of classes.


Speaking (again) of exercise, does anyone have an unused stationary bike they’re willing to sell? Asking for (ahem) a friend.


Every Westporter has a talent. Many are figuring out how to use their expertise to help others.

As a career coach, Jaki Suter helps clients write or refresh resumes. With so many people suddenly facing job losses, she’s doing her part: offering a “free resume refresh” to 30 Westport and Weston residents.

She’ll work with you to highlight skills and accomplishments; include new positions and details, and eliminate irrelevant details.

All you need is an existing resume no more than 5 years old. You’ll work by phone. Jaki will produce an updated resume, including a round of revisions and a final document.

To be one of the first 30 local residents, email jaki@sutergroup.com (subject line: “Free Resume Refresh”).


Jennifer Hrbek reports that she and Westport psychiatrist Dr. Mohamed Elsamra are helping raise $50,000 to buy 4 ventilators, to be donated to local hospitals. Click here to contribute.


Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich notes that transfer station personnel cannot assist with bulky waste. Do not bring those items to the station.

In addition, with the increase in cardboard due to online ordering, all boxes should be flattened, stacked and tied.

Tissues and gloves are being placed in recycling bins. They are not recyclable, and must be placed in the regular trash bin.

Due to the increased amount of glass containers, recycling bins are too heavy for workers to lift. For the time being, residents should separate glass into a smaller container, or put all recycling in smaller containers so workers can lift them.

Transfer station


Greens Farms Academy head of school Bob Whelan has gained fame — and respect — for his great snow day videos.

It’s a little tougher to pull off a clever coronavirus video. But the popular, people-first educator did.

This morning he channeled Fred Rogers, for the school’s youngest learners. Bob —  whose career before education was fronting the band Angry Salad — sang for his students.

He reminded them he (and the school) were still there for them. Then, in true Mr. Rogers fashion he asked them to keep him apprised of big events, like birthdays and lost teeth.

You don’t have to be a kid — or go to GFA — to love this one.


Miriam Young writes, “As one of many COVID positive people in Westport, I hope you can tell other positive readers about efforts to collect plasma from recovered patients.”

She sent a link to a story on how plasma might help people still fighting off infection (or, preemptively, those at high risk of infection).


When Westporter John Rizzi read that a TV remote can be 20 times dirtier than your toilet, he got worried. You can’t clean it well, without taking it all apart.

But he devised a solution: cover it in plastic wrap. It takes 2 seconds; it protects the device — and you can replace the wrap over and over again.


And finally, you don’t have to be a Kopite to love this song (and video!):

Senior Center Offers Online Classes

When the Senior Center closed earlier this month, the impact was felt by hundreds of Westporters.

But Senior Center staffers are as resourceful and resilient as the men and women who flocked there every day.

Over 30 programs are available — online, via Zoom — for the spring quarter. The list includes yoga, tai chi, qigong, essentrics, low and high impact exercise classes, French language, current events, religion and studio art.

Spring classes begin this Wednesday (April 1).  Scroll down for the complete list of offerings. (It’s formatted poorly — but that’s the best I could do. Sorry!)

All that’s needed to take an online class is a computer, email address and access to the internet. To register, seniors (age 60 and over) should call 203-341-5099 weekdays, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (That’s the number for questions too.)

The Senior Center is closed. But classes are offered online.

A few writing classes have already begun online. Participants were thrilled to see their classmates — and begin writing again.

In addition, the Senior Center created a YouTube channel, with links to free videos in a variety of subjects.

They’ll post a weekly documentary film on the channel, along with some of their free classes.

The most popular — the aerobic chair class — is on it too.

Click here for the link YouTube channel. After opening the page, you can subscribe to the YouTube channel by clicking the red button on the upper right.

Senior Center director Sue Pfister adds this message:

My staff and I are doing our best to keep seniors mentally and spiritually stimulated, physically challenged and engaged during these unprecedented times.

I’m so impressed with everyone’s willingness to jump on board virtually, and make the best out of this otherwise frightening time. I know if we continue to be creative, flexible and open-minded we will get through this and come out wiser, stronger, more compassionate and more appreciative of our community.

Stay home, stay safe.  I miss you all terribly.

Bringing the Outdoors In Thurs. 1:00 pm. Chris Goldbach 4/2-6/25 $48
Still Life Thurs. 4:00 pm. Chris Goldbach 4/2-6/25 $48
Drawing Flowers Fri. 10:00 am. Dick Rauh 5/22-6/26 $24
Blending Pastels Fri. 10:00 am. Lisa Arnold 4/3-5/15 $28
Advanced Drawing & Watercolor Tues. 10:00 am. Tom Scippa 4/7-6/30 $52
Current Events Fri. 12:45 pm. Lila Wells 4/3-5/22 free
Book Talk: Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion Mon 10:30 am. Part 1 Linda Bruce 4/6-5/11 $24
Book Talk: Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion Mon 10:30 am. Part 2 Linda Bruce 5/18-6/15 $24
Writers Workshop Tues 9:30  FULL Jan Bassin 4/7-6/30 $96
Writers Workshop Tues 1:30  FULL Jan Bassin 4/7-6/30 $96
Writers Workshop Wed. 10:30 am. FULL Jan Bassin 4/1-6/24 $96
Writers Workshop Thurs 9:30 am. FULL Jan Bassin 4/2-6/25 $96
Writers Workshop Thurs 1:30 pm. Jan Bassin 4/2-6/25 $96
Learn to Play the Ukulele Tues. 1:00 pm. Uncle Zac 4/7-6/30 $52
Intermediate French Wed. 1:00 pm. Nell Mednick 4/1-6/24 $52
Conversational French Wed. 10:30 am. Nell Mednick 4/1-6/24 $52
Essentrics Mon. 11:00 am. Dyan DeCastro 4/6-6/29 $48
Zumba Gold Wed. 10:30 am. Karen Liss 4/1-6/24 $52
Tai Chi Beginner’s Wed. 10:00 am. Mari Lewis 4/1-6/24 $52
Tai Chi Reinforcement Mon. 10:45 am. Mari Lewis 4/6-6/29 $48

 

Guided Qigong Mon. 2:10 pm Deby Goldenberg 4/6-6/29 $48
Cardio Strength Fri. 9:30 am. Shelley Moll 4/3-6/26 $52
Weights in Motion Mon. 9:30 am. Shelley Moll 4/6-6/29 $48
Dance & Stretch Tues. 1:00 PM. Sandy Adamcyzk 4/7-6/30 $48
Dance & Stretch Wed. 1:00 PM. Sandy Adamcyzk 4/1-6/24 $48
Strength Training Mon. 1:00 pm Sandy Adamcyzk 4/6-6/22 $36
Strength Training Fri. 10:00 am Sandy Adamcyzk 4/3-6/26 $44
Yoga Total Health Mon. 8:45 am. Denise O’Hearn 4/6-6/29 $48
Yoga Total Health Wed. 8:45 am. Denise O’Hearn 4/1-6/24 $52
Yoga Total Health Fri. 8:45 am. Denise O’Hearn 4/3-6/26 $52
Yoga/Core Strength Sat. 10:00 am. Maria Vailakis-Wippick 4/4-6/27 $52
Yoga Gentle Sat 11:15 am Maria Vailakis-Wippick 4/4-6/27 $52
Yoga Beginning Thurs. 3:00 pm. Maria Vailakis-Wippick 4/2-6/25 $52
Yoga Wellbeing Tues 7:45 am. Paula Schooler 4/7-6/30 $52
Yoga for Wellness Sat 8:45 am. Paula Schooler 4/4-6/27 $52
Yoga for Brain Longevity Thurs. Noon Paula Schooler 4/2-6/25 $52
Therapeutic Yoga Thurs. 7:45 am. Paula Schooler 4/2-6/25 $52

Science Olympians Confront Virus

The Staples High School girls and boys basketball teams — both enjoying their best seasons in decades — saw their state tournament hopes suddenly end. No one knows what will happen to spring sports, though that season seems increasingly unlikely.

But Westport athletes were not the only ones whose seasons came to a brutal end, thanks to the coronavirus.

At Bedford Middle School and Staples High, dozens of students were preparing for the state — and hopefully national — Science Olympiad competitions. They, their teachers and advisors had spent hundreds of hours since August researching, designing and studying.

Building on last year’s success — both teams represented Connecticut at the national tourney at Cornell University (for Bedford, the 3rd trip in 5 years) — the squads felt confident.

Last year’s Bedford Science Olympians …

Science Olympians don’t get the publicity or prestige — and certainly not the crowds — of basketball players. But in the highly competitive world of science contests, the Westporters are superstars.

The Bedford program began 9 years ago. Engineering and design teacher Art Ellis is the driving force — the Geno Auriemma of Science Olympiads. He’s assisted by Dr. Daniel Cortright, a BMS science teacher.

This year — with Coleytown students attending Bedford — the middle school teams merged. CMS engineering and design teacher Keenan Grace brought his students on board, with great success.

… and the Coleytown squad.

Science Olympiads consist of 23 events. Each team — usually 15 students — competes in all 23. (This year’s BMS squad included about 75 youngsters. Including various invitational meets, 50 or so got actual competitive experience.)

The events range from building a structure, vehicle or flying object, to tests in areas like geology, meteorology and anatomy, to hybrid, chemistry lab-style activities.

There are activities too like “Crime Busters,” for forensic analysis.

Then there is “Disease Detectives.”

Developed long before COVID-19 spread across the globe, this Science Olympiad event asks students to examine — and solve — disease outbreaks.

At the national high school tournament, the CDC gives an award to the winner of this event — plus an expense-paid trip to its headquarters in Washington, DC.

Many of the middle school Disease Detectives questions have revolved around food-borne illnesses. They’re fairly straightforward to analyze, Cortright says.

From left: Middle school teachers and Science Olympiad coaches Dan Cortright, Kat Nicholas and Art Ellis.

Not long ago, he and Ellis talked about possible tournament questions. They guessed there would be some about pathogens like COVID-19. They started preparing their team for them.

But before they could solve the problem — or at least, address it — the state and national tournaments were canceled.

The Westport Public Schools have moved to distance learning. Activities like Science Olympiad are on hold.

But if anyone can figure out how to adapt to our new reality — and (who knows?) come up with a way to solve or even prevent future disease outbreaks — it’s these young superstars.


In related Science Olympiad news, 4 members of Staples’ team were also involved in the M3Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge.

Formerly called Moody’s Math Challenge, it’s certainly challenging. Teams of 5 students represent their schools, using math to solve a real world problem.

They meet outside of school, download the problem, then work together continuously for 14 hours. The winning solution earns a large cash prize for the school.

Staples’ team — including those 4 Special Olympians — worked together on the problem before social distancing began.

This year’s involved electric trucks. Specifically, contestants had to make intelligent decisions about the necessary charging infrastructure is complex, and weigh economic and environmental implications for communities surrounding trucking corridors is essential. Over 750 teams competed.

The Staples Mathworks Challenge team, hard at work.

Click here to see the Staples team’s video — 14 hours compressed into 3 minutes — on Facebook. Click here for more information on the M3Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge.

COVID-19 Roundup: Arlen Road Neighbors; Old Mill Parking Lot Closed; “Distance Learning” Help For Parents; Driving School Open; More

Jack Washburn turns 90 years old today. Family had planned to come from around the country to celebrate.

Now of course, they can’t. That’s just one of countless small side effects of the coronavirus.

But Jack’s milestone will not go unnoticed. Just before noon, he and his wife got a joyful surprise.

His Arlen Road neighbors — adults and kids — gathered on the front lawn. Spaced appropriately apart, they sang “Happy Birthday.”

The provided lunch and cake (and wine).

Then they strung a line on the porch, where they hung birthday cards they’d all made. That way he could look at them, without touching.

Speaking of touching: This is Westport at its best!

Washburn 90th


Many Westporters have offered to donate items during the coronavirus crisis.

Town officials say, “The unique circumstances and complications due to potential virus transmission, including the time needed to quarantine donations and equipment, require detailed coordination. Items that do not assist with the response and recovery cannot be accepted.”

Westport is accepting the following response and recovery donations at your curb by appointment, between 9 a.m. and 12 noon only:

  • Plastic face shields and goggles
  • Packaged medical masks
  • Packaged N-95 masks
  • Packaged medical head coverings
  • Packaged medical gowns
  • Tyvek suits
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Packaged Nitrile or nylon disposable gloves

Items that are not pre-packaged cannot be accepted.

Click here to fill out a brief form. You will be contacted to set up a time for curbside pickup.

And, officials emphasize: Do not drop off donations at town buildings!


Old Mill Beach has joined the list of parking lots closed to visitors. Compo Beach and Burying Hill had previously been closed.

Sherwood Island State Park remains open. So do the 44 trailed preserves operated by Aspetuck Land Trust.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


Distance learning has begun. Students are adapting well. Parents — well…

Successful Study Skills for Students — a local organization — is offering a 30-minute interactive seminar: “8 Ways to Keep Your Student Focused, On Track and On Task in the New E-learning Environment.”

Delivered via Zoom, it helps parents learn how to establish and maintain accountability, and help minimize distractions and reduce stress.

Sessions are Tuesday, March 31 and Thursday, April 2 (7 p.m.) and Wednesday, April 1 (10 a.m.).

It’s free, but registration is required. Each seminar is limited to 25 people. Click here to enroll. For more information, call 203-307-5455 or email info@S4StudySkills.com.


Inspired by Wednesday’s “06880 Pic of the Day” showing a heart in a mailbox with the message “Smile!”, the Theisinger family decided to do something similar for the people who help them.

Youngsters Grant and Blair put on gloves, and packed up treat bags. They printed out messages of thanks, and left them for their mail carrier, UPS deliverer and refuse collector.

“Just a small token to show our gratitude!” says their mom, Kristy. “We 💜 Westport!”


When Governor Lamont ordered many businesses shut, driving schools were among those hit.

Now, however, the Department of Motor Vehicles has allowed them to offer something previously prohibited: online classes. (Schools must meet certain guidelines for testing and attendance tracking.)

Westport’s Fresh Green Light begins soon. The schedule will closely mirror the existing one of after-school hours and weekends.

Classes are open to all current students, and new enrollments (16 and older). Click here for details.


So how did Jim and Nancy Eckl celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary?

They donned masks and gloves, and served their loyal, beloved customers at Gold’s.


Finally, today’s Song of the Day comes via the great Suzanne Sherman Propp, and her Sing Daily! project that brightens hundreds of Westporters’ days:

 

Persona Of The Day: Candice Savin

For a while, Rob Simmelkjaer and I have been talking about a “Persona of the Week” interview for “06880.” Persona — his new mobile app — makes it easy and fun to conduct interviews and create podcasts.

These days, staying connected is more important than ever. So Rob and I are using Persona’s “06880 Dan Woog” channel to help.

Once a day — usually in my COVID-19 Roundup story — we’ll share your stories. Some will be family interviews; others will be questions of special guests.

We start with Board of Education chair Candice Savin. She answered a few questions from Rob Simmelkjaer about when schools will likely reopen, the impact of this crisis on the education budget, and whether the shutdown will impact the schedule for Coleytown Middle School’s reopening.

Here’s a clip from her CMS answer. You can download the app (iPhone or Android for the full Q&A, and to ask her your own questions. Then follow “06880 Dan Woog” — and stay connected. (To share your own interviews, tag “06880 Dan Woog” in the interviewee field.

Board of Education chair Candice Savin

COVID-19: More Rent Reductions; Parks & Rec, Transit News; Realtors Unite; Staples Online; Low-Interest Loans; More

Yesterday’s Roundup began with news of the rent reduction promised by local landlords Edward and Joan Hyde, to tenants like Westport Yarns.

Breno Donatti — owner of Winfield Street Coffee on Post Road West — quickly emailed, noting that his landlord, Alon Panovka, also agreed to waive April’s rent. He’ll discuss May when the time comes.

“Alon has been great to us in our 4 years here,” Breno says.

Winfield Deli closed March 17. He may even get credit for part of this month. Thanks, Alon! (Meanwhile, feel free to order gift cards to use when Winfield reopens!)


Some rules don’t change. This April 1 — as always — dogs are no longer allowed on Compo, Old Mill or Burying Hill beaches, or the Longshore golf course. Dogs are of course welcome at Winslow Park.

The Parks & Recreation Department also announces that because it’s uncertain when the beaches will fully open, beach emblem sales are postponed until further notice.

Parks & Rec reminds Westporters not to congregate at parks and athletic fields. “We encourage all to get outside and get some exercise, but please do not gather in groups,” says director Jen Fava.

Sorry, Fido. As of Wednesday, life will no longer include a day at the beach.


Originally, the Westport Public Schools planned a 2-week closure. As it becomes clear that the shutdown will last (probably much) longer, the district is adapting to online education.

For Staples High School students, that means more interaction with teachers, in more manageable blocks of time. It’s a new way of learning, and administrators, staff and students are figuring it out together.

Whether you’ve got kids in high school or not — or none at all — a video from principal Stafford Thomas is, well, instructive. It shows how Staples is adapting; it outlines the promises and challenges, and it’s a vivid illustration of the cascading effects the coronavirus is having on us all. Click below to view.

 


Real estate agencies often compete for listings and sales. But many came together this week, to help fill a huge need at Yale New Haven Hospital.

A doctor told Sally Bohling they needed Lysol wipes, gloves and shoe covers. The William Raveis realtor called her friends contacted Karen Scott and Mary Ellen Gallagher, of KMS Partners @ Compass.

They put out the word to the Westport realtor community. Quickly, literally thousands of contributions poured in.

The booties idea was particularly inspired. “We aren’t hosting open houses, and the winter weather is behind us. So offering the ones we’re not using was a no-brainer,” Karen says.

 


Connecticut small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the pandemic can apply for 1-year, no-interest loans of up to $75,000,

The Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program will make $25 million available to state businesses and nonprofits with up to 100 employees. Loans are up to the lesser of either three months operating expenses and/or $75,000. Click here for details.


With sharply decreased train ridership, starting Monday (March 30) Westport Transit will replace commuter shuttles with an on-demand, door-to-platform minibus service. It will operate to and from any Westport location and the Saugatuck and Greens Farms stations.

Calls should be made the previous day before 5 p.m. (Saturday for Monday pickup) for morning commutes, and at least 45 minutes prior to pickup for the evening commute. The phone number is 203-299-5180.

Door-to-door services for seniors and residents with disabilities are unchanged.

For more information, click here.


It’s a small idea from Hallie and Maya Wofsy, but a great one: Put a red or pink heart on your door. The goal is to show support for all our amazing front-line healthcare workers.

Take a look on your walks through the neighborhood. The hearts are already there. And if you don’t have colored paper or markers, Maya will (very safely) drop one ready-made at your door. Email mayawofsy@gmail.com for details.


And finally, when these 2 kids were quarantined in Italy, they decided to play a little Coldplay. On their violins. Their choice of a song — “Viva La Vida” — couldn’t be more perfect.

 

Rishabh Mandayam Tracks Connecticut’s COVID

Drew Coyne’s Advanced Placement Economics class is one of the most popular at Staples High School. It’s challenging, interactive, and very real-world-oriented.

Before most Americans were concerned about COVID-19, Coyne gave an assignment: research the virus’ impending impact on the United States.

At first it was interesting. Then it got frightening.

Rishabh Mandayam

When Westport schools closed last week, the reality hit home. Rishabh Mandayam — one of Coyne’s 11th-grade students — wanted to understand how quickly and severely towns like ours would be impacted.

So — working with his younger sister Raina — he created a COVID-19 tracker.

The goal is to track the rate of community spread, and increase awareness statewide about the virus.

Data comes from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, CDC and ECD (European equivalent) sites.

Rishabh used a programming language called R to pull the information and create graphs. He published it using HTML and Firebase. His interest was sparked through Staples classes like Introduction to Web Programming and AP Computer Science, with David Scrofani and Clare Woodman.

As you can imagine, Rishabh is a go-getter. He’s co-president of the Coding Club, vice president of Future Business Leaders of America, and a member of the Math Honors Society and Staples Science Olympiad team. He’s currently doing an independent study course in machine learning.

Outside of school he tutors students in math and science. He spent last summer as a software engineering intern at Lockheed Martin, and will return there this summer.

Rishabh has seen websites that track COVID-19 nationally; some do it worldwide. As far as he knows, this is the only site that tracks it exclusively in Connecticut.

Feedback has been very positive. He’s enhancing the tracker regularly, with new ideas and tweaks.

During breaks, of course, from his distance learning — including plenty of work for AP Economics.

(Click here for Rishabh’s COVID-19 tracker.)