COVID has upended many elementary school routines.
Youngsters attend split sessions — morning or afternoon. There’s no cafeteria service.
And — go figure — more and more kids are walking to school.
Many parents don’t want their kids to ride buses. Not every mom or dad is available every day to drive every kid. So there they are, each morning: boys and girls on foot (and bikes).
It’s almost like the old days.
Except — over the years — Westport has forgotten how to handle kids heading on their own to class.
Wednesday is National Walk to School Day. Kings Highway Elementary celebrates it starting today, through Wednesday.
The school’s PTA figures it’s a great way to focus on road safety.
Parents will be stationed at Post Road West by Ludlow Road and Kings Highway North. They’ll wear neon, hand out balloons, and make themselves and their kids visible — even though (or actually because) there are no school safety zone signs and few crosswalks near the Post Road West building.
Children have made signs, promoting school zone driving safety. They’ll hang them in front of the school. Yesterday, families wrote sidewalk chalk messages about the topic.
In the absence of state signs, this homemade sign — made yesterday — was posted near the school.
The Post Road — aka US 1 — is a state thoroughfare. The town is limited in what it can do. The Kings Highway PTA is working with the Connecticut Department of Transportation and town officials to increase safety precautions, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So this week — if you see kids walking to Kings Highway (or any other school) — slow down. Wave. Give a gentle honk of support.
And given them plenty of room to enjoy themselves.
In 2014, Kings Highway celebreated Walk to School Day (Top, bottom photos/David Gusitsch)
The big day is Tuesday. Nearly 6 months after closing — and a week after the original date — students return to Westport schools.
Many things will be different. They’ll attend in shifts: half in classrooms, half studying remotely. Desks will be 6 feet apart. Some hallways will be one-way. And those are just a few of the changes COVID has wrought.
Some youngsters have not even driven past their schools in half a year. To remind them of what they look like, here is a special “Friday Flashback” drone gallery. All images are courtesy of multi-talented and spectacular Staples High School senior Brandon Malin. (Click on or hover over any photo to enlarge.)
To start off, here’s the school he’s headed back to:
Bedford Middle School
Coleytown Middle School (construction project)
Coleytown Elementary School
Greens Farms Elementary School
Kings HIghway Elementary School
Long Lots Elementary School
Saugatuck Elementary School
Bonus feature: Greens Farms Academy (All drone photos/Brandon Malin)
Much of the town just finished WestportREADS. This year’s novel — “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid — focused on 2 refugees who, against all odds, find life and love on the run.
A great book — but a bit much for elementary school readers.
No problem. Kings Highway just finished something very similar.
Everyone in school — all grade levels — read “Masterpiece,” Elise Broach’s mystery novel about friendship and stolen art.
Entire families were encouraged to read together at night. There were school-wide assemblies and online activities. Teachers recorded chapters on computers, so youngsters could listen at home or in the car.
There was a surprise ending: Broach herself showed up, to read the final chapter to students.
Author Elise Broach reads to Kings Highway Elementary School students.
It was a fun project for everyone. But then they took things a step further.
The school’s motto is “Kindness Happens at our School.” (The acronym is KHS — get it?!)
So when they were done, the kids donated their “gently loved” copies to the James J. Curiale School in Bridgeport. Now everyone there is doing the same school-wide reading too.
One book. Two schools. Too cool!
A bulletin board shows some of the many ways Kings Highway students read “Masterpiece.”
Two weeks ago, Peter Barlow stumped nearly everyone with a photo of a spire that — until it was knocked over in a hurricane — stood with a dozen others atop the Compo Beach bathhouse.
Last week’s Photo Challenge also came courtesy of Peter. This one was much easier: the cupola at Kings Highway Elementary School.
Though they showed different images, and were orders of magnitude apart in difficulty, they share one thing.
As Peter notes, the 4 spires at the base of the cupola are very similar to those once on the bathhouse. Both structures date from the late 1920s and early ’30s. (From its opening through 1958, Kings Highway served as Bedford Junior High School.)
Congratulations to Victor Belyaev, Elaine Marino, Tom Ryan, Wendy Cusick, Michelle Saunders, Jacques Voris, Michael Calise, James Weisz, Jonathan McClure, Lawrence Zlatkin, Eva Pastor, Jill Turner Odice, Mary Cookman Schmerker, Ritu Johorey, Bonnie Bradley, Sharon Paulsen, Dede Fitch and Mary Palmieri Gai — some of whom are proud BJHS or KHS graduates. (Click here for last week’s photo.)
Is this week’s Photo Challenge as tough as the bathhouse spire, or as easy as the Kings Highway cupola?
We’ll find out. If you think you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.
Compo Beach is home to Westport’s biggest and best known playground. It’s jammed in summer — and well used the rest of the year too.
But it’s not the only one in town.
Every elementary school has a playground too. They’re used at recess, sure — but after schools and weekends as well.
Playground aficionados will be delighted to know that this year, both Kings Highway and Saugatuck Elementary raised funds for new playgrounds. They’ll be installed before schools begins next fall.
One element of the new Kings Highway Elementary School playground.
They’re ADA compliant (of course!). Also (of course!) they use recycled content, and are made to high environmental health standards.
The new playgrounds are “designed for social interaction and cooperative play,” says Lauren Turner, a Kings Highway parent involved in the project.
They include interactive climbing blocks, slides, spinning elements, quiet areas and more. All elements provide “physical, emotional and intellectual stimulation.” Play is (of course!) a key to children’s development.
But what happens to an old playground?
Kings Highway 2nd graders enjoy their “old” playground …
Kings Highway and Saugatuck El have partnered with Kids Around the World. The organization helps children and families affected by war, poverty, illness and natural disasters.
The 2 schools’ current playgrounds will be donated to a third world country, where such things are luxuries.
Turner is glad that youngsters there too will be able to play — and grow.
She hopes this project helps Westport kids understand the impact they can have on other children’s lives, around the globe.
… and so do 5th graders.
KHS and SES are reinforcing that message through a few programs. Youngsters will write letters to be sent with the old playground. Turner hopes this leads to a pen-pal program.
Kings Highway Principal Lou DiBella will open the library once a week in July and August, so children can write journals about the playground.
And on July 21, all of Westport is invited to help break down the old playgrounds. Kids Around the World will refurbish it, then ship it overseas.
You don’t have to be a Kings Highway family to help. Just click here.
Then — if you’re a kid — stop staring at this screen.
Earlier today, I ended my story on the move of Dragone Classic Motorcars from Post Road West to Orange by suggesting the 11,000-square foot property might be the site of a medical marijuana dispensary.
Some readers took me seriously.
I was kidding! It’s directly opposite Kings Highway Elementary School. You’d have to be smoking some heavy stuff to believe that would fly in this town.
But here’s something to consider.
Word around town — from reliable sources — is that a developer has closed on the former classic car showroom. He’s got his eye on the property next door too — where Villa del Sol planned to move.
Why? He wants to build 8-30(g) affordable housing there.
As in, 150 or more 2-bedroom apartments.
The former Dragone property and its neighbor, on Post Road West.
There’s already a plan in the works for the other side of Post Road West — the former “blighted homes” site on the crest of the hill heading downtown. That’s on the Planning and Zoning Commission agenda, for 81 8-30(g) units.
For a while, most Westport zoning battles have been waged on the other side of the river.
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