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)
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a story on High Point Road. In the midst of highlighting all the joys of the longest dead-end street in town — the road I grew up on — I complained that kids there no longer rode bikes to school, the way my friends and I did.
Maybe — because I regularly pass so many parents waiting for their kids’ buses on nearby North Avenue (and don’t get me that they drive to the beginning of roads like Adams Farm and Greystone Farm Roads to pick them up, aaaargh!) — I just assumed that High Point parents did the same.
Biking to school from High Point is alive and well. Here’s a shot of Long Lots Elementary the other day:
When they’re older, many youngsters walk from High Point to Bedford Middle School too.
“This time outdoors is an important part of the kids’ day,” says High Point parent Tally Jacobs.
“It says so much about Westport that kids take advantage of their proximity to the schools, the fresh air, the independence and community feeling that results from walking and biking.”
Of course, walking to Staples — directly behind homes on the west side of the road — is a different story. Most High Point kids with their licenses drive to high school — even though it takes longer.
Amy Chatterjee sent this along, on behalf of a group of Long Lots Elementary School parents:
This past week we learned that we will say farewell to Long Lots principal Jeffery Golubchick.
He is a lifelong educator, who prior to running one of our outstanding elementary schools cut his teeth as a teacher in the New York City public school system (as did both his parents before him!).
Jeffrey Golubchick and Amy Kass. (Photo/Jenny Anderson)
He married his wife Amy last summer in New York City, where they currently live. We think it appropriate to share our thanks publicly for all he has given to the Westport community over the last 2 1/2 years.
Teachers and school administrators come in and out of our children’s lives each year. Whether they plan to stay in our community for a few years or their entire careers, the best educators behave as if they are doing their life’s work. They always look for ways to become better, more knowledgeable, more impactful.
Mr. Golubchick made it his mission to be great at his job. Whether he was focused on curriculum development, bringing the magic of live theater to the lower grades, lobbying for building improvements or taking time to visit every classroom to really know our children and hold our teachers to the highest possible standards, Mr. Golubchick honored his work by doing it the best way he knew how.
No teacher, no staff member and no child was insignificant. Every role was important and worth doing well. He never stopped trying to get better, and challenged those around him to do the same.
Jeffrey Golubchick and the Long Lots Lion, at a school party.
In life we can only hope to bring so much to a role that we fundamentally change the experience for those around us. Too many families to count have stories of Mr. Golubchick’s compassion, professionalism and dedication to this community. Probably hundreds of students have stories of positive interactions with Mr. Golubchick.
We know that any principal must walk a delicate line, simultaneously wearing the hats of disciplinarian, cheerleader, arbitrator, educational architect and advocate for many different constituents. One’s cumulative impact in these multiple roles can never be listed on a resume, and if done right will never please everyone. Mr. Golubchick’s impact will be appreciated and remembered by so many of us who were touched by it.
While Mr. Golubchick will start a new chapter, his legacy will live on for years because of his hard work. From upgrades to the building and the birth of musical theater at Long Lots, to his awareness of the evolving demographics in our community and the needs of working mothers, we will not forget the initiatives that Mr. Golubchick introduced to Long Lots.
Thank you Mr. Golubchick for everything! For giving so much of yourself to each of us, and for your passion and dedication to creating a modern education environment for our children to thrive in. Enjoy whatever will come next for you. We are sure that it, and you, will be great together.
On a national level, our rhetoric may be white-hot.
Despite that — or maybe because of it — here in Westport, our kids are playing nice.
Long Lots Elementary School has developed a Caring Council. Last week, students and their faculty advisors, Lori Grindrod and Cecilie Schachte — with the full support of principal Jeffrey Golubchick — rolled out an important event for the entire building.
“Kindness Week” included:
Make a Difference Monday
Thoughtful Tuesday , during which Caring Council students gave hot chocolate to bus drivers
What Can I Do to Help? Wednesday
Thank You Thursday
Friendship Friday, with a special friendship-themed “super recess.”
Long Lots bus drivers enjoy Kindness Week treats.
The Westport school system has embraced “kindness with sincerity” as a guiding principle. Is it naive to ask if some of our leaders in Washington could follow suit?
(Hat tip: Amy Chatterjee)
Long Lots 3rd graders created this quilt, showing what kindness means to them.
Students have summer reading lists. Adults have book clubs.
Now, Long Lots Elementary School principal Rex Jones has combined the 2 ideas. He’s created a summer reading list for parents. The books range all over the place — thrillers, love stories, memoirs, history, philosophy. But he’s been sure to include some that moms and dads can read with their kids.
He hopes every book will spark discussions.
Rex has always liked books. However, he says, being a teacher made him an even better reader. And gave him more appreciation for the power of the written word.
As Long Lots principal, he started an after-school book club for teachers. He, the media specialist and 2 assistant principals expanded it to 5th graders. Though voluntary, it became very popular.
The next logical step was to involve parents. Rex compiled nearly 20 works of fiction, and even more non-fiction. He shared them with parents, encouraging them to talk about what they’ve read with their kids.
Some books could also be read by older elementary students. The One and Only Ivan, for instance, helps readers view humans from the perspective of animals. White Sands, Red Menace is a historical novel about a young girl whose father moves away, to help develop the atomic bomb.
Most selections are too tough for 4th and 5th grades. One of Rex’s favorites is the novel he just finished. Calling Me Homeis an intriguing tale of an interracial relationship, when such things were taboo.
Rex recommends books about autism, illness, karma, migrant laborers, Jewish immigrants, the Underground Railroad, coming of age (though he warns parents about Tell the Wolves I’m Home: “Although this is a story about an adolescent girl, I would not recommend it for adolescents”), economic inequality, Buddhism, art, and the Dutch settling of New York.
Intriguingly, Rex also includes The Game of School: Why We All Play it, How it Hurts Kids, and What it Will Take to Change It.
An educator’s job is to challenge students to think.
With this list, Rex Jones does the same for their parents.
Last month, the Board of Education accepted a very generous gift. The New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association is donating a $117,000 playground to Long Lots Elementary School.
As “06880” reported, the firefighters are paying forward — to communities struck by Hurricane Sandy, and near Newtown — the kindness they were shown after in New Jersey after the storm. Seven years earlier, following Hurricane Katrina, the same firefighters had built playgrounds along the Gulf Coast.
Westport was chosen by relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Dylan Hockley, because of a family connection here.
Westport firefighters and Public Works, Gault Energy, Kowalsky Brothers and AJ Penna Construction are all donating time, labor and materials to prepare the site for the new playground. Sunrise Rotary is contributing funds.
The groundbreaking on June 7 will be a community event. Jake Hockley — Dylan’s brother — will be the “foreman,” and cut a ceremonial ribbon. 26 butterflies — one for every student and educator killed in Newtown — will be released into the air.
In addition to being beautiful, the butterflies symbolize the Butterfly Effect: Something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings can cause change halfway around the world. Dylan’s parents, Nicole and Ian, call Dylan their butterfly. He — and the 25 others who died — can be a catalyst for change, they say.
But the effort does not end there.
The Long Lots PTA has created “Butterfly Effect” t-shirts (left and below) and car magnets (above). Part of the money raised will go to Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play. That’s the umbrella organization coordinating the construction of 26 playgrounds in the tri-state area, of which Long Lots is one.
The rest will go to Dylan’s Wings of Change, a memorial fund created in his memory to provide support for children — like him — with autism, and other special needs.
They’re also selling Sandy Ground bracelets ($5, at Elvira’s, Christie’s Country Store and Wishlist).
Long Lots — and Westport — received a wonderful gift. The New Jersey firefighters and Hockley family say they’re just paying it forward.
Now we’ve got a chance to do the same.
(T-shirts for $10, and “Butterfly Effect” magnets for $5, are for sale at Christie’s Country Store on Saturday, May 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m, and at a table near the Westport Y at the Memorial Day parade. Requests can also be sent to email@example.com. If you’d just like to donate to the cause, send a check payable to “Long Lots PTA” to Lauren Goodman, Long Lots Elementary School, 13 Hyde Lane, Westport, CT 06880).
Tonight, the Board of Education will vote to build a $117,000 playground at Long Lots Elementary School.
And it won’t cost Westport taxpayers a dime.
It’s a gift from the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association.
And if you wonder — as I did — why the NJSFMBA is donating a playground to an affluent town 2 states away: read on.
The donation is part of the “Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play” project. Based in Rahway, NJ, it honors all 26 victims of the Sandy Hook shootings, while also helping communities in the tri-state area hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
A week after the storm devastated much of the New Jersey coast, Billy Lamb called the NJFMBA state office. The Mississippi businessman remembered New Jersey firefighters, and the playgrounds they built there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Lamb said the communities of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi were collecting Christmas gifts for New Jersey children affected by the storm. They were “paying it forward” to those who had showed such kindness in their own hour of need.
During a nor’easter, Gail Cunningham Coen welcomed Waveland mayor Tommy Longo to her Compo Beach home.
(Waveland and Pass Christian are well known to Westport. Gail Cunningham Coen is senior vice president of Keep America Beautiful, and has worked hard to rebuild both communities. She’s even hosted their mayors here.)
In December a trailer containing over 1,000 wrapped Christmas toys arrived from Mississippi, for Monmouth County kids.
The gesture energized exhausted NJFMBA members. Unfortunately, at the same time the nation was reeling from the shooting of 20 children and 6 adults, not far away in Newtown, Connecticut.
The NJFMBA wanted to do something to help — but how could New Jersey firefighters be productive and meaningful? Suddenly — thanks to the gifts from Mississippi — the playgrounds they’d built 7 years earlier provided the answer.
“The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play” was born.
So 26 playgrounds — in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut — will be built, in an attempt to connect 2 tragedies that eerily share the same name.
The Long Lots playground honors Dylan Hockley, the little boy who’d moved to Sandy Hook from England 2 years ago, and who died wrapped in the arms of his teacher, Anne Marie Murphy.
The total cost could reach $2 million. But when NJFMBA members debated whether it could be done, they kept coming up with the same answer. Not only could it be done; it had be done.
Pending approval of the gift (!), construction will begin next month.
But you can thank the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association any time you want.
(“The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play” can be reached at 1447 Campbell St., Rahway, NJ 07065; www.thesandygroundproject.org; 732-499-9250.)
(Click on the video below, or click here for a direct link to YouTube.)
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thanks!)