Tag Archives: COVID-19

Scarice Explains Schools’ Full Reopening Pause

On Tuesday night, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice told the Board of Education that the current hybrid model — 2 days in person, 3 out for middle and high schoolers; morning and afternoon sessions for elementary-age youngsters — will continue at least through December.

In an email yesterday to Westport families, he described that decision. He wrote:

Last night I was asked by the Board of Education to share my decision regarding the next phase in our school reopening plan. I am most grateful for the opportunity to work through this process in collaboration with a team of committed Board of Education members, as well as all members of our school community.

In short, following a public examination of the advantages and disadvantages of a full reopening, last night I recommended that the prudent course of action at this particular point in time is to remain in our current model for at least the next four to six weeks while monitoring the trajectory of infection rates.

This will be a year of responsiveness, i.e. responding to trends in changing data, responding to feedback from parents, students and educators regarding our performance, and responding to any possible breakthroughs that might alter the direction of our way of life during the pandemic (i.e. treatments, testing, vaccines, changes in the efficacy of specific mitigating measures).

I fully understand the entrusted responsibility of decisions such as these and I feel the weight of that responsibility. That said, beyond delivering the best educational experience possible for our students, I also feel responsible for any efforts to pull the community together during polarizing decisions and possible divisiveness.

I intended to make a decision based solely on transmission rates and our ability to maintain our mitigating measures in a full return. In full candor, what I did not anticipate was the impact that the current elementary instructional model would have on my thinking in the next phase of reopening.

It is true that a number of school districts across the region that originally began in a hybrid model are now fully opened for on-site schooling, particularly at the elementary level, and these districts have experienced very low rates of COVID incidences at the elementary level.

Furthermore, as promised, we administered an internal assessment of our mitigating measures. The results are very promising in assuring that not only are the current measures effective, but with some modifications, they show promise to be maintained in a full return, with some exceptions.

That said, I’d like to reiterate a comment from my last parent letter where I indicated that it is critical that any changes in our schooling models are responsive to trends in virus transmission rates. Absolute rates remain in the low risk category, yet weekly data has demonstrated a consistent increase in virus transmission. Yesterday our state experienced the highest positivity rate since June, and just over the border, Westchester County saw the largest jump in positive cases since May while hospitalization rates recently doubled.

Westport students will continue to learn in school — and at home.

Our local Westport/Weston Health District (WWHD) has advised that we take a cautious approach in any reopening moves as they expect an increase in infection rates. There is evidence of an increase in rates of infection at the present moment.

Although there appears to be a window for a full return before the rates advance to a level that warrants additional restrictions, based on current trends in virus transmission, I do not see the value of what would likely be a temporary return. The trade off is not our current elementary model for a “normal” classroom and schooling experience. The trade off is the value of our current elementary model for a “pandemic classroom”.

As I articulated last night, with substantive support from the elementary principals and our Elementary Curriculum Coordinator, Ali Moran, our current model enables our faculty to deliver an instructional program during this time that would be restricted in the “pandemic classroom.” Our current model empowers our teachers to work closely with individual students and small groups, actively moving within the confines of our mitigating measures to ensure that academic progress is not lost, but actually advanced. It also supports social/emotional development in ways that would be compromised in a fully reopened “pandemic classroom.”

This week we have engaged in an analysis of our entire K-12 reopening instructional model with focus groups at each level for teachers, parents, and students. This information will be instrumental in our efforts to improve our programs for students. There are clearly areas for improvement. Although we will stay the course, this feedback could alter our practices across all levels, elementary, middle and high.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

If we are to be assured of anything it is that the landscape will continue to change. We’ve seen this since the onset of the pandemic in March. Guidance on masks, virus transmission on surfaces, and most recently on the effectiveness of neck gaiters, has evolved and changed regularly. In fact, my own thinking has changed as I received input from the school community and was able to conduct classroom observations in each elementary school. I anticipate that changes will continue and our responsiveness will mark our success.

Our next step is to receive the feedback from our focus groups and take action. It is likely that this will begin with reconvening the district wide School Reopening Committee. Updates will be forthcoming as we continue to move forward.

Given the advantages and disadvantages of a full reopening, I am confident that we can balance safety with desirable instructional experiences for our students by taking the prudent course of action at this particular point in time. We will continue to monitor the changing environment and look to fully return when infection rates stabilize and trend downward so that we are able to loosen the restrictions in the educational setting.

 

An Air Hug For Dad, And A Final Farewell? The Sequel.

On March 16 — just 4 days after COVID closed Westport schools, as the reality of the pandemic swept across America — I posted an astonishing story.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Leonora LaPeter Anton had written a heart-wrenching story about the coronavirus’ effect on her life. She had just moved her 93-year-old father into a memory care unit. He was also in the late stages of Parkinson’s. Now she could not even visit him.

Her father was Bob Bohen. He raised her as a single parent in Westport, in the late 1970s and ’80s. He worked 2 jobs, but was always there when she got home after school. She graduated from Staples High in 1982.

“He let me have huge sleepovers and was beloved among my friends,” Leonora wrote. “He took me out to eat. Every night.”

Click here to read her moving account of what she feared might be the last time she ever saw him.

Leonora LaPeter Anton and her dad, Bob Bohen.

More than half a year has passed. Once again Leonora — who shared a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, as part of a Tampa Bay Times/Sarasota Herald-Tribune team exploring violence and neglect in Florida mental hospitals — has written about her dad.

Father and daughter were separated for months. In July, he got COVID. His battle with the disease forms the basis of her most recent story.

I won’t tell you what happened. You need to read it yourself; just click here.

It’s an astonishing story, told beautifully and with love by a talented Staples High School grad.

It’s also just one of millions such tales, in our America today.

(Hat tip: Suzanne Braley)

Roundup: Dogs, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, More


It’s that time of year again. Dogs can return to Compo Beach.

Starting Thursday (October 1) through March 31, canines are prohibited from the Compo Beach pavilion, playground and boardwalk.

They must be leashed everywhere else — except south of the pavilion (including South Beach). Regulations are posted at the entrance to the off-leash areas.

from October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 the following regulations will be in effect for Compo Beach.

Of course, you are required to pick up your pooch’s poop everywhere.

Violations of any dog regulations are subject to a $77 fine.

(Photo/Stephen Axthelm)


The backdrop was gorgeous, but the news was grim yesterday as Dr. Scott Gottlieb was interviewed on “Face the Nation.”

Speaking from outside his Westport home, President Trump’s former FDA commissioner warned that the country is heading toward a “very dangerous” phase of the COVID pandemic.

Click below for the full interview. (Hat tip: Hedi Lieberman)


And finally … Miles Davis died 29 years ago today. The legendary jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer was 65.

Marpe: Good Job So Far. Stay Vigilant!

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

Much has transpired over the past few months. I want to update Westport residents on a number of COVID-19 issues.

Westport was at the forefront of activity when the initial wave of COVID-19 cases came to this region in the late winter/early spring of 2020. I am proud of the town’s response then, and I am equally proud of, and impressed by, our ongoing diligence and hard work to control the virus. To those whose health has been directly impacted and affected by the virus, we extend our comfort and support.

It is important to stress that while “COVID fatigue” and complacency are natural responses as the conditions have extended into the fall, we must continue to stay vigilant and appropriately manage our activities during this ongoing public health crisis.

It is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to avoid another outbreak. Everyone must be mindful and respectful of our families, neighbors, friends, and work colleagues when considering any behavior, including social activities, that may be counter to medical advice and the protocols that have been established to protect the community from the virus.

When the power went out during Tropical Storm Isais, Westporters took advantage of the library’s WiFi — masked and socially distanced, of course. (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

I am encouraged that Westport has reopened businesses, restaurants and other services using the State of Connecticut guidelines. We continue to monitor the results. To date, strict adherence to the sector rules has helped us minimize the number of COVID cases.

Please continue to wear a face covering whenever you are in a public setting and cannot maintain a 6-foot distance. Maintain social distancing whenever and wherever it is necessary. Obey all the rules and conditions posted in local businesses and public spaces.

On Thursday, Governor Lamont announced additional reopening guidance that will bring the state closer to Phase III beginning October 8. This step specifically increases the patron capacity at indoor establishments such as restaurants, salons and libraries, outdoor event venues, religious establishments and performing arts venues. Of course, social distancing and mask wearing are emphasized in these plans.

Church Lane will continue to be closed to vehicles through October 31 — and open for outdoor dining.

Bars continue to remain closed. While it is not a full Phase III as was previously envisioned, we are encouraged that the governor considers up-to-date trends on COVID that will ultimately help businesses, arts and cultural institutions and places of worship get closer to operating at full capacity. For more details on the Governor’s plan visit Portal.CT.Gov.

The Westport Weston Health District remains an invaluable resource for those residents seeking information and guidance related to COVID-19, the upcoming flu season, and other health-related issues that affect our community. For daily updates and case numbers, please visit their site at www.wwhd.org.

Recent issues addressed by the WWHD include:

  • The WWHD has noted an increase in positive cases within younger age groups. As residents may know, there have been positive cases identified in the Westport Public Schools. The public school administration is working closely with medical personnel and the WWHD to respond quickly and appropriately. Please be mindful that it is possible to be COVID-19 positive but not experience any symptoms. To reduce the spread of infection, remember the 3W‘s (Wear a mask, Watch your distance, and Wash your hands).
  • Flu vaccines are highly recommended and are available through your health care provider and at various area pharmacies. The Health District hosted 2 flu clinics in September, and plans to offer additional vaccination clinics as supplies become available.
  • Vibriosis:  There has been an increasing number of Vibrio vulnificus (Vv) cases reported to the Connecticut Department of Public Health related to the Long Island Sound. Vv is always a risk when water temperatures are greater than 68°F, and the risk is greater depending on the pathogenic strains that are circulating. Those with cuts, abrasions, recent surgery or other wounds should avoid brackish water along Long Island Sound. This applies to dogs as well. More information from the CDC can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/healthcare.html.

(Photo/Les Dinkin)

Halloween

  • The CDC recently released guidance stating that “Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses. There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween.” The town has established a workgroup with town officials, the public school administration and members of the PTA to discuss how the Westport community may celebrate Halloween in a manner that keeps COVID health and safety protocols at the forefront. Further information and plans will be forthcoming.

9/11: A Lost Video, Found In A Pandemic

Alert “06880” reader Robin Gusick writes:

The anniversary of 9/11 always takes me back to when I lived in downtown New York, on 14th Street and Avenue A with my husband Dave and our 6-month old baby Sam.

Early that morning, a friend called and said, “you better put on the TV – now.” We watched in horror and disbelief the footage of the first plane hitting.

Sam Gusick with his young parents, Dave and Robin.

We had plans to take Sam to his first baby music class, and wondered whether to go or not. Since we presumed the plane crash to be a terrible accident, we put Sam in his stroller and walked outside.

On the way we saw people huddling around a Radio Shack with multiple TV sets in the windows, all showing the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. We considered heading home, but figured we might as well go to the class as a distraction.

Ten minutes in, the teacher stopped playing her guitar and said, “I’m sorry, but it just seems wrong to sing when the world is falling apart. I just heard that a second plane hit. This is not an accident — it’s a terrorist attack.”

As we rushed out and hurried home with Sam back in his stroller, we saw massive smoke rising up from further downtown. People watched TVs in windows all along Union Square. They stood silently in shock, watching both towers fall.

Back in our apartment, we put Sam in his “exersaucer” and watched TV — and watched and watched, in horror. We saw smoke from our apartment windows, and smelled the most toxic smell imaginable.

It was particularly surreal to see this innocent 6-month old baby staring at the TV, and wonder what kind of world he would grow up in. We videotaped that moment on our bulky camcorder, knowing one day we would want to show Sam.

Fast forward 18 years to September 11, 2018. Sam is a senior at Staples High School (we moved to Westport when he was 2). I told him a bit of our story of that somber day, mentioning I had a videotape somewhere. He said, “Wow, I’d really like to see that.”

I was glad he was way too young to remember that awful day. I tried to explain to him that when you go through  something like 9/11, you forever see the world through a different lens.

Sam headed off to the University of Vermont the following fall. My first baby quickly found “his people” and his “happy place” in Burlington. He came home for spring break in March. The pandemic hit, and his time in Vermont came to a screeching halt. Sam said, “My generation really has not lived through anything major like this… well, except September 11th. But I have no memory of that.”

Sam Gusick (Photo/Kerry Long)

Sam’s last 2 months of school were at home with no friends, no campus, no Burlington. He was a good sport. He was happy to have Zoom calls, and movie nights with his college buddies. There were silver linings: family dinners that never fit into his busy Staples Players and Orphenians schedule, and decluttering and simplifying our home.

During one of those long pandemic days in March, sorting through mountains of old papers while watching “Tiger King” with Sam, I felt a small item mixed in with the papers: a videotape labeled “Sam — September 11th.” It was a pandemic miracle!

However, the miracle was trapped in what seemed like caveman technology. Plus every business was shutting down. I left that tape on my night table, though.  It took until today — September 11, 2020 — for me to research how to transfer that camcorder video to a watchable format.

And so, my 9/11 “gift” to Sam (who is back at UVM now) is this video, along with a message: Life can change in an instant.

It did on 9/11/01, and it did this past March. Keep being the resilient, positive man you have grown to be. Keep smiling like you did in that exersaucer on that very, very sad day.

Even if it’s under your mask. Click below for the 9/11 video.

Scarice Adds Info Re Coleytown El Closure

Yesterday afternoon, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice updated Westport families on the COVID-related closure of Coleytown Elementary School. He wrote:

Early this morning, the administration was informed by a staff member who self-reported that they had received notification overnight of a positive test. Given the tight timeline and that students and staff were to arrive within hours, I made the decision to close CES and Stepping Stones Preschool in order to implement our tracing protocols in conjunction with the Westport Weston Health District and our medical advisor. This is a 1-day closure, and both schools will reopen Monday.

The need to determine risk prior to receiving students was the primary reason for this decision. Additionally, the closure has enabled our facilities staff to perform a thorough cleaning of the school. The health and safety of our students and staff will continue to be our highest priority.

In working closely with the Westport Weston Health District and our medical advisor, it has been confirmed that the staff and students have implemented our mitigating measures by maintaining distance to the maximum extent possible, and by wearing masks. However, the Connecticut State Department of Education /Department of Public Health guidance indicates that decisions for exclusion from school and quarantine will be based on the individual circumstances of each case, including those who have spent a significant amount of time (i.e. more than 15 minutes) in the presence of a positive case, regardless of mask wearing.

Coleytown Elementary School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

In this case it was determined that the students and staff in two CES classrooms spent a significant amount of time in the presence of a positive case. As a result, these individuals will be excluded from school community and have been recommended to quarantine for 14 days from the date of contact, September 10. To be clear, siblings and other family members of these children and staff do not need to quarantine.

I am quite certain that, for very good reasons, many in the school community prefer specific information about the individuals involved in this matter.  However, the school district administration is required to comply with all applicable laws and regulations regarding student and employee confidentiality and privacy.

The Americans with Disabilities Act precludes sharing the identity of an individual, with the exception of sharing the individual’s identity with a public health agency (e.g., Westport Weston Health District). In addition, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevents the school district from publicly sharing personally identifiable information derived from student education records.

In light of these confidentiality and privacy protections and our related legal obligations, as well as the need to protect the health and safety of the school community, we will continue to adhere to the appropriate means of notifying the school community of possible exposure to COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis.  Judgement will be used and each case might look a little different from another.

Some unintended consequences resulted in this matter as well. For example, the distance-learning teachers located at CES were not able to access their materials this morning, and as a result, those classes needed to be cancelled. The distance-learning specials were impacted similarly, yet this was not communicated to parents and I apologize for any inconvenience. We have reviewed this process so that we can maintain continuity to the maximum extent possible the next time we experience a closure or interruption of education.

I intentionally state, “the next time” since I want to reiterate that we are educating our students in the midst of a global pandemic. I expect that we will continue to confront circumstances like this throughout the duration of the pandemic. We will get better in our response each time. We will learn lessons from each event and we will continue to educate and develop our children to the very best of our ability.

Finally, we will continue to count on each other as we continue to rise up and endure this challenge.

COVID Caution Closes Coleytown El, Stepping Stones

Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice sent this notice today to all Coleytown Elementary School families and staff:

The administration learned early this morning that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. Given the timing of the notice and our need to follow district protocols with contact tracing, as a precautionary measure, Coleytown Elementary School will be closed today, Friday, September 11, 2020, to students and staff. This closure includes the staff and students of Stepping Stones preschool.

[Principal Jenna] Sirowich and the administrative team will be working closely with the central office administrators, the Westport Weston Health District and our medical advisor to assess the impact of this positive COVID-19 test and begin contact tracing.  We will provide an update to the CES and preschool community later today.

In the interim, our custodial staff will be conducting a thorough cleaning of the building to ensure it is ready for reopening.

We regret needing to take this action and for the late notice but feel it is the most prudent decision so that we can implement the necessary tracing measures.  The health and safety of students and staff are our primary concern.

This was the scene Tuesday morning, at Coleytown Elementary School.(Photo/Stephanie Mastocciolo)

Schools Superintendent: Let’s Join Together For All Our Kids

On the day before the start of a new school year — one unlike any other — superintendent of schools Tom Scarice sent a message to Westport families. It too is unlike any back-to-school note sent before. He wrote:

I am certain that you have received countless messages from teachers, principals and others in the school system as we approach the first day of school tomorrow. I will do my best to keep this brief so that you could enjoy the last day of summer vacation, along with this gorgeous weather.

Enclosed in this message are necessary notifications for parents and guardians in order to start the school year. Please review at your earliest convenience.

Most importantly, I would like to welcome each of you  to the start of the 2020-2021 school year. This will be a unique year, and one that will require the abilities to communicate effectively, to adapt regularly, and to support each other as we navigate the realities of educating our students during a global pandemic.

Tom Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

Last April, during the initial COVID worldwide spread, Dimo’s Pizza in Chicago reinvented itself. Dimo’s owner Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau felt driven to respond to the pandemic. Realizing that his restaurant regularly makes things very quickly, in large quantities, and very cleanly, Syrkin-Nikolau recast the use of his pizza ovens to heat and shape acrylic face shields. Concurrently, Dimo’s continued to make pizzas, some for takeout and others donated to local hospitals.

Success stories such as this one have been reported all over private industry and the non-profit sector. Reinventing, i.e. transforming a process or recasting for a new use, is a bit more complex when considering teaching and learning. I am a purist in a sense in that I believe in the power of the interpersonal dynamic between the teacher and the student, live and in-person. Technology has augmented facets of education, yet it still has not, and some regards, I do not believe it ever will, replace the incalculable experience of the classroom.

Yet, for this school year, hundreds of Westport teachers and support staff are faced with this challenge.

Last Thursday I had the chance to formally address each and every employee of the Westport Public Schools, albeit, remotely. I shared my thoughts on how the highest performing systems, (i.e. teams, private industry, etc.) can “count” on each other for the greater good of the mission. I made specific promises of support to the team.

In my numerous conversations with teachers and support staff over the past few weeks, it is clear to me that within the midst of uncertainty and anxiety, there is a strong desire to do this right, to meet the needs of each and every student in a way never done before.

We are not, and will not be, perfect. We are a system comprised of people with all of the strengths, potential, and shortcomings that we bring collectively to our schools, present company included. However, like Dimo’s pizza, we are poised to rise up and reinvent, if only for this time period, while we continue to confront this pandemic. Our kids are counting on us.

Although I am not well-known to the community at this point, I am confident that you will all come to see me as an educational leader who is by nature, optimistic. I do not believe that optimism is the denial of current reality, but the belief that all things continually improve, that this too will get better.

Until that time, I ask that you join me in supporting our educators as they embark down a path of reinventing, even if for only this year, in order to meet the needs of our children. I ask that you offer your patience, your generosity, and your kindness.

In turn, on behalf of the Westport Public Schools team, I offer you the promise that we will do our very best to serve your child, to benchmark our progress and seek to continually improve, and to provide your child with not only an excellent education, but a nurturing place to grow and develop during this time.

As summer closes and we approach our first school day, I ask all in the school community, to rise up and join together to deliver for our children.

Most sincerely,
Tom Scarice

It’s The Law: New Firm Focuses On COVID Employment Questions

Employment law was hot before COVID-19. Now that corner of the legal world sizzles.

If an employee does not want to (or cannot) return to the workplace — because of high risk for the coronavirus, say, or the need to care for a young child who is doing fully remote learning — can he or she be fired?

How enforceable is a waiver acknowledging workplace risks during the pandemic? What about non-compete clauses, at a time when it is so difficult to find any work at all?

You — business owners, workers, everyone — have questions. Saluck, Halper & Lehrman have answers.

Jill Saluck

The new law firm was launched recently by 3 Westport and Weston women. They represent businesses and employees in all areas of employment law. But as a historic pandemic rages, they spend most of their time on COVID-related cases.

It’s not easy. The issues — and laws, and precedents — change daily. But Jill Saluck, Jill Halper and Randi Lehrman are the right attorneys, at the right time.

None grew up around here. They all moved to Westport with their husbands and children, and became friends. They paused their legal careers, to raise families. As their kids grew, they decided to rejoin the workforce.

And to represent it.

“Employment law has been extremely relevant the past few years, because of the focus on #MeToo and sexual harassment,” says Halper. (If her name sounds familiar, it’s because her husband is 1979 Staples High School graduate David Halper. His mother, artist Roe Halper, still works and teaches in the same house where she raised David.)

Jill Halper

Now it’s even more far-reaching. The coronavirus impacts nearly every aspect of employment law: disability rights, family medical leave, OSHA and workplace safety, unemployment, discrimination based on age and pregnancy, and much more.

“This is far more complex than anything I’ve dealt with before,” Halper says.

For example, the firm — with offices in Westport and White Plains — has worked with a private school, as it prepared to reopen. Among the questions: Are teachers “essential workers”? Which safeguards are absolutely necessary, and which are merely important? How do sick leave policies work during a pandemic?

“This is all uncharted territory,” Halper says. “It’s new for employers, for employees, and for all of us. And the federal and state mandates change every day.”

In early spring, most of the questions she and her colleagues fielded involved unemployment: qualifications for benefits, denials of appeal — that sort of thing. Employers and employees wondered about furloughs — a term many had never heard.

Randi Lehrman

These days, Halper says, the focus has shifted to reopening, and the return to work.

There are contract law questions too. For instance: If a construction project or consulting contract can’t be completed because of COVID, is a “force majeure” clause in place? If so, does a pandemic qualify as an “unforeseen circumstance”?

Each of the 3 brings a different strength to SHL. Lehrman is an excellent litigator. Saluck is a strong writer and researcher. Halper calls herself “a good negotiator.”

Though the partners are all women — in a field where law firms often seem dominated by men — they downplay their gender.

“We are just 3 people doing something entrepreneurial,” Halper says. Still, she admits, “it’s good to be role models for our daughters. And sons.”

School Days: Scarice Recommends Hybrid Model

With less than a month to go before the school year begins, the look of that year is becoming clear.

Last night, in a Zoom meeting with the Board of Education, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice recommended a hybrid model. It’s different at each level, but consistent in one way: All students — at least, all who do not choose full-time remote learning — would spend half their time in school, half at home.

Staples High School would have 2 cohorts, based alphabetically on last name (A-K, L-Z).

One cohort would be in school Monday and Tuesday; the other, Thursday and Friday. There would be 4 classes a day; each class is 80 minutes long. When students are not in school, they’d be online.

On Wednesday, all students would learn remotely. The highly touted Connections group meetings would be held that day too.

The final 30 minutes of each day are set aside for teachers to support and connect with remote learners.

Staples high School

The middle school model divides students into cohorts too — both alphabetical, and based on their “home school” (Bedford or Coleytown). One group would in school Monday and Thursday, online Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The other group is in school Tuesday and Friday, online Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

All middle school students would be online Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On that day, teachers will have professional responsibility time from 12:30 to 3:15.

Bedford Middle School (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

The elementary school model was developed thanks to “herculean, unparalleled work” by professionals at all 5 schools, Scarice said.

The elementary model — which emphasizes literacy and math for live instruction — splits youngsters into morning and afternoon groups. There would be live “online specials” when students are home; phys. ed., art, music and Spanish are taught once a week. Small group instrumental lessons and ensembles would be taught virtually. Students would eat at home.

Stepping Stones Preschool would be “business as close to usual” as possible. The class size is 9 to less than 14, meeting state guidelines.

Long Lots Elementary School

Scarice pulled no punches in his introductory remarks. “This is not a 100% data-driven decision. Nor should it be,” he said.

Noting “we are a community and nation enveloped in fear and uncertainty,” he acknowledged that any decision would impact “students, families, teachers, staff members and the entire community. We will not be able to answer every question. This is something we’ve never done before.

“There will be a perception of winners and losers,” he acknowledged. “We must remember: Our purpose is to serve students.”

Although there is a national debate over the role and conduct of education and educators, the superintendent said, “This is a moment for our profession to shine. I am fully confident we will do this very, very well.”

The Board also heard a proposal to move the first day for students back a week, from September 1 to September 8. Those extra days are needed for staff training.

The Board of Education will vote on the hybrid models, and the calendar change, at their next meeting, on Monday.

Superintendent of schools Tom Scarice, during last night’s Zoom meeting.