Tag Archives: Staples High School

Westport Schools’ Full-Time Reopening Set

Elementary and middle school students will return full-time to their buildings on February 1. Staples High School will follow soon after.

That’s the word from Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice. He says:

This school year has been a physical, emotional and psychological test of our collective endurance. We close out the first half of the school year at the end of this month. In the midst of the uncertainty and episodic chaos, I hold a very optimistic perspective for the second half of the school year.

What’s Next
As I shared with the parent community on December 22, I recommended a cautious approach to our school reopening this year.

However, based on 4 months of experience in preventing virus transmission in our buildings, and the similar success of peer districts in our region who have fully reopened, along with the reopening of Coleytown Middle School, I began conversations intended to increase access to on-site schooling for the second half of the school year. These discussions included a full reopening of on-site schooling for all K-8 students, and increased access for on-site schooling at Staples….

We have remained on the course I illustrated for the school community on December 22. There is a great deal of work that has been done, and continues to be done, to safely welcome our students back for additional on-site schooling.  However, we remain on the timeline shared on December 22.

The “Why?”
Those who serve our students, namely our faculty and support staff, are the reason for our success. Our collective support of these professionals is critical to the success we have enjoyed for decades. Yet as a system, our primary mission is to serve and develop our students. In the course of this work, challenges emerge in an ordinary year.  In a pandemic the challenges grow exponentially.

As a community, we are faced with obvious public health obligations to ensure that we are responsibly doing our part as a school system to minimize virus transmission. However, we are also obligated to balance our public health responsibilities with the perhaps less obvious risks that have impacted our children as a result of the reduction of on-site schooling.

The academic, social/emotional, and psychological impact on our students is not captured each evening on the news in cases per 100,000, or in positive test rates.  Yet the impact is real, consequential, and warrants mitigation.

It is time to move to bring these two obligations a bit more into balance.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

In October, the district partnered with the Tri State Consortium and conducted focus groups with almost 250 teachers, students and parents to identify critical problems for us to solve this year as a result of delivering a pandemic education.

Many of the problems that were identified can be addressed, in part, through greater access to additional on-site schooling.

The lack of connections with peers and adults, the academic struggles, and the ongoing challenge of engaging students can all be tempered with additional on-site schooling. This move will not eliminate these problems, nor will it eliminate the profound social/emotional and psychological issues that have emerged for some children, but it will ease the effects on the children we serve.

The benefits full on-site schooling are so important, particularly after long periods of remote and hybrid instruction this year and last year, that bringing our responsibilities to public health and our students into balance is warranted.

With less pandemic experience in the fall, I was less inclined to increase the levels of on-site schooling, particularly at the elementary level which provided an “everyday” model. A move to a “pandemic classroom” was not warranted given the uncertainty of the coming months in the fall.

That said, given our experience since then, and the experience of our peers in the region, along with the significant benefits of full on-site schooling, in my judgement it is time to begin this transition.

The Transition Process
Elementary Schools
The transition to full time on-site schooling will begin with a full asynchronous remote day for all elementary students on Wednesday January 27 in order to provide teachers the time needed to accommodate their classrooms for full enrollment.

A special 2-day transition schedule (January 28 and 29) will be shared next week by the elementary principals to their school communities which will illustrate how they will gradually welcome back their entire student body, with the first full K-5 day of on-site schooling scheduled for the first day of the second half of the school year, Monday February 1.

From that point forward, elementary students will engage in full school days, with changes made to arrival/dismissal, bus seating assignments, lunch, and recess.  The principals will communicate this information, and more, to their families in the coming days.

Given the need for our elementary faculty to deliver their instruction in a pandemic setting, and all of the professional challenges associated with this, like most districts in our region, Wednesdays will remain an on-site half day for students. Afternoons will be reserved for teachers to work with colleagues as they continue to solve instructional problems unlike any they have experienced in their careers as a result of COVID-19.

Greens Farms and 4 other elementary schools will reopen full-time on February 1.

Lunch will be served in homerooms and efforts will be made to “de-densify” the classrooms where appropriate when serving lunch by accessing other areas of the school building.

A parent survey is forthcoming which will gather information on any changes in distance learning requests from parents and transportation intentions (i.e bus or bring your child to school).

The distance learning option will remain for students and this program will be largely unchanged, providing consistency for this population of students.  More information about the distance learning option will be provided by the elementary principals in communication to their families.

Middle School
The middle schools will also transition to full time on-site schooling on the first day of the third quarter, February 1. The middle schools will transition the first phase during the month of February and the second phase on March 1.  Phase 1 will have all students return in person for full day instruction on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, while maintaining the existing Distance Learning half-day schedule on Wednesdays (February 3, 10 and 24 only).  Phase 2 will commence on March 1 with students attending school in person all 5 days, eliminating the Distance Learning Wednesday….

A parent survey is forthcoming which will gather information on any changes in distance learning requests from parents and transportation intentions (i.e bus or bring your child to school).  Distance learners at the middle school level will continue to have access to live streaming.

Coleytown (above) and Bedford Middle Schools will also reopen full-time on February 1.

High School
Like the elementary and middle school levels, the Staples team has also developed plans for an increase in on-site schooling for students. However, given our tragic loss last week of a senior and the impact on the school of working with students to process the events at the nation’s capital, for good reasons, the Staples plans are a week or so behind schedule.

In full candor, my expectation last week was that the Staples team would fasten their attention to the work of supporting students and staff as a result of a heartbreaking loss to the school community.

That said, it is expected that these plans will be reviewed and considered for implementation in the coming weeks. The perhaps less obvious effects of the pandemic (social/emotional, psychological) have hit our high school population particularly hard and we have an obligation to respond. I am confident that we will.

Staples High School will reopen full-time shortly after the other schools. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

The Unintended Consequences
Along with perhaps lessening the negative academic, social/emotional and psychological effects of the pandemic on our students, there will be some unintended consequences.  With more students on site it is very likely that we will see increased numbers of students and staff recommended to quarantine in light of being considered a close contact to a positive case.

Additionally, it is also likely that in some instances, a full, temporary school closure might be warranted in response to a positive case that includes many close contacts. Staffing our schools has been a challenge, and that challenge has the potential to grow during full on-site schooling.

We expect an increase in the number of distance learners, as this has been the case with our regional peers. Districts in the region that have successfully transitioned to full on-site schooling have reported a 5%-10% increase in distance learners at the outset of implementing full on-site schooling.

Finally, our buses will likely see more students on board. Vigilance in mask wearing on our buses, and in all settings will be critical to our continued success.

Final Note
As I shared on December 22, given the performance of public schools across the state, and here in Westport, I am confident that our resilience will continue to maintain high levels of safety for staff and students. It is clear that with continued vigilance in mask wearing, schools can remain resilient while serving more on-site learners safely. Of course, for this school year all parents will be afforded the right to distance learning for their child.

Communication throughout the system will be essential to making appropriate changes as necessary. We will continue to monitor our performance and the effectiveness of our safety measures. In response, we reserve the right to make programmatic adjustments along the way.

You can expect building principals to follow up with families in the coming days as we prepare for this change in learning models.

Staples, Middle Schools Go All Remote Thursday and Friday

With increasing staff absences due to quarantine requirements, and more confirmed cases of COVID, Staples High and Bedford/Coleytown Middle Schools will move to all remote learning on Thursday and Friday.

Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice said in an email to parents:

“For November 12th and 13th, Bedford/Coleytown Middle School and Staples High School will be operating through a full remote teaching model for all students and staff. The principals will be sending further information this evening about the schedules for both days.

“The decision to move our secondary schools to a remote model for two days came as a result of several individuals testing positive, and the subsequent need to quarantine many individuals and continue contact tracing. Due to the number of quarantined staff members, we are unable to appropriately staff our secondary buildings and supervise our students.

“As of the time I am writing to you this evening we have 12 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the following schools, including 5 new cases in the past few hours:

  • Coleytown Elementary School – 2
  • Greens Farms Elementary School – 2
  • Kings Highway Elementary School – 1
  • Bedford/Coleytown Middle School – 2
  • Staples High School – 5

“Our mitigating measures continue to be effective in minimizing and preventing spread in our schools. However, it is critical that the entire community remains vigilant in taking all precautions to prevent further community transmission.”

High School, COVID-Style: A Senior Reflects

Lys Goldman is a senior at Staples High School. She is a captain of the girls’ soccer team and a paper managing editor of Inklings, the student newspaper. She is also involved in other clubs, primarily focused on animal rights activism and environmental sustainability.

She does not speak for all Staples students — but her insights are on target, and important. Lys writes:

I walk through the hallways donning my navy blue mask, smiling at friends and then laughing at myself for forgetting that they cannot see my mouth.

I arrive at class shortly after the bell rings, my trip prolonged by the one-way hallways that prohibit my usual routes. I sit down in my classroom as my teacher opens the Zoom meeting and greets the students at home.

Eighty long minutes later I stand up, disinfect my desk with an alcohol wipe, and repeat the process again.

The next day, instead of driving to Staples for in-person school, I drag myself out of bed 3 minutes before my first class. I log onto Zoom to learn online from the comfort of my own house.

Lys Goldman in class, 3 days a week.

Being a high school student during a pandemic has brought changes and difficulties, from dogs barking during online learning, to diminished connections between fellow students, to a loss of typical social lives and extracurricular activities.

However, there have also been unexpected positive impacts, such as a renewed gratitude for time in school and lessened stress levels during online learning.

In school, the environment and procedures have undergone significant modifications to foster safety amidst the pandemic. Of course, first and foremost is the mask mandate. Going to school in a mask, while unfortunately impeding on my penchant for snacking constantly during class, has not had any notable consequences on my ability to learn.

Conversely, the distance between desks has had outsized negative repercussions on my experience in school. Though most of my classes freshman to junior year set up desks in different ways, all grouped at least 2 desks together.

I did not realize it at the time, but the desk setup was a key component in allowing me to connect with my classmates and gain a better understanding of the course content by talking with peers around me.

Because of COVID-19, each desk is uniformly separated to retain space between students. Isolated desks make it very difficult to talk with classmates and help each other understand the material. 

Close in-class collaboration — like these students in the “Staples Spectacular Challenge” — is a thing of the past. (Photo by Julia McNamee)

Another challenge that the pandemic has presented with regards to the hybrid model is the testing procedure. Exam policy varies from teacher to teacher, creating discrepancies throughout the school and even within courses.

Some teachers allow notes on all exams at home and in school; some split the test into 2 sections with notes allowed at home and disallowed in school; some trust the integrity of students at home and prohibit notes on all exams. Ultimately, the lack of uniformity in testing policies and procedures has resulted in questions of fairness among students.

Though the pandemic has unsurprisingly resulted in numerous negative implications on in-school learning, it has strengthened my gratitude for the opportunity to even be in school at all. Knowing that lots of students elsewhere have been forced to turn to full online learning, I have begun appreciating every moment in school — even the miserable test-taking ones.

Just half the senior class is in school together on any day. Still, students find ways to get together.

At home, the challenges and benefits differ from those at school. The main struggle for me is staying focused and eliminating distractions. In a family of 10 kids, 5 dogs, 5 cats and 2 birds, it is very difficult for me to keep my attention strictly concentrated on my class Zoom. It is also very easy to zone out when you are sitting in your own bedroom rather than in a classroom.

On the other hand, online learning does come with some benefits: namely, the opportunity to stay home when needed and not miss important class information or activities.

I am a big believer in mental health days, but sometimes I decide against taking a mental health day even when I need one because I do not want to miss important information, and I do not want the burden of making up classwork.

However, with the ability to stay home and learn on Zoom when needed, it relieves some stress when I feel like I need a stay-at-home day but don’t want to fall behind in my classes.

Outside of school, the typical high school social life has clearly been impacted by COVID-19. I still hang out with a small group of friends, but I avoid large group gatherings. Though I do wish I could participate in a bigger group setting sometimes, I do not believe it is a big price to pay to stay safe.

Additionally, extracurricular activities have been forced to adjust to follow safety regulations, but many are at least still proceeding even in a slightly different form. As member of the girls’ soccer team and the school newspaper, I have experienced a year so far in both organizations that I certainly could not have imagined, but I am extremely grateful that I am able to play and write at all.

Lys and the Staples girls soccer team have had a very successful season.

I never expected my senior year of high school to include the changes and adjustments precipitated by the pandemic. Despite the challenges, I am thankful for the opportunity to continue with in-school learning and after-school activities, even with restrictions.

Looking toward college and the rest of my life, I believe this experience will help me appreciate the sense of normalcy that I often overlooked prior to the pandemic.

Roundup: Karen Romano, Halloween, More


Karen Romano retired yesterday, after more than 30 years at Staples High School. She worked in the library, special education, and as the invaluable, loyal and wonderful secretary to the principal.

In fact, she worked with 7 Staples principals — and made them all look good.

Ah, the stories she could tell!

Karen Romano


COVID and the cold will limit trick-or-treating tonight.

But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of creative costumes.

For instance, 8-year-old Julian Hinojos is a recycling container. He’s got a solar panel hat, and a costume made out of recycled materials found around the house (and in the recycling container).

Julian’s dad works in solar energy. Julian too is very concerned about the environment. He will make sure none of his candy goes to waste!

Julian Hinojos (Photo/Hilary Nordholm)


Some homes will welcome trick-or-treaters tonight. Others will just keep the lights off.

Here’s one creative way to say “sorry, we’d love to have you — just not this year!”

(Photo/Lee Emery)


The other day, “06880” gave a shout-out to a group of swimmers. For nearly 30 years, they’ve met at Compo Beach — at 6 .m. They swim a mile or so — and they do it from May to November.

Yesterday, before dawn, they celebrated Halloween. I’m surprised no one wore a costume from “Frozen.” (Hat tip: Paula Koffsky)

(Photo/Markus Marty)


And finally … trick or treat! NOTE: This is “Jumpin’ Gene Simmons,” NOT the lead singer of Kiss.

Roundup: School Traffic, Football, Yarn Day, More


Sure, half of all Bedford Middle and Staples High School students are not on campus, at any given time.

But with most parents opting to drive and pick up their youngsters — some buses reportedly carry only 1 or 2 kids — traffic on North Avenue and nearby streets has been heavy, at the start and finish of the school days.

It may take a few days to sort out what works. Until then: Avoid those areas at those times if you can.

Bedford Middle School traffic, yesterday afternoon. (Photo/Adam Vengrow)


It’s a win-win: The Westport Library and the Ruden Report.

Ruden — a Staples High School graduate whose website, Instagram and Facebook platforms are the go-to sources for coverage of Fairfield County high school sports —  are collaborating on a new project: The Ruden Report Live at the Library.

The show debuts today (Thursday, September 10, 7 p.m.) from the Library’s Forum. Tonight’s topic: the recent decision to cancel this year’s high school football season. Guests include noted New Canaan High coach Lou Marinelli, St. Joseph’s Jack Wallace (2019 Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year), and Jeff Jacobs, sports columnist at GameTime CT and Hearst Media CT.

Upcoming Ruden Reports will be recorded in the libary’s media studios. Some shows will be streamed live.

Ruden has been a sportswriter for over 35 years. He has written for the New York Times, and worked at ESPN and CBS Sports. 

Dave Ruden at work.


Speaking of sports: Staples football players joined hundreds of others from around the state yesterday in Hartford. They protested the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and state Department of Public Health decision to cancel this fall’s high school football season.

Tonight at 7 p.m., former CNN, NBC Sports and Fox News anchor (and Westport resident) Dave Briggs interviews Wrecker head football coach Adam Behrends on Instagram Live. You can hear the discussion @WestportMagazine.

A small part of the large crowd in Hartford yesterday. (Photo/Dave Briggs)


This Saturday is Local Yarn Store Day. And Westport’s local yarn store — called, appropriately enough, Westport Yarns — is celebrating big time.

The shop across from Fresh Market offers free 45-minute lessons at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Three people (12 years old and over) will get yarn and needles, and learn how to knit. At 12 and 2 p.m., there are free crochet lessons. To register, call 203-454-4300.

In addition, there are hand-dyed yarns for purchase. Earlier this year, a similar trunk show sold out quickly.

Rumor has it that Westport’s yarn bomber may stop by. No promises, but hey. You never know.

One of the yarn bomber’s first works, at fire headquarters. Westport Yarns is just a few yards away. (Photo/Molly Alger)


Speaking of cars: After a careful look at COVID requirements and a review with town officials, organizers have canceled the Concours and “Cars & Coffee” events set for October 4, in downtown Westport.

However, the “Tour d’Caffeine” is still on. The socially distanced ride through Fairfield County’s back roads ends with lunch at the Redding Roadhouse. It is limited to the first 25 who sign up. Click here to register.


And finally … in honor of Local Yarn Store Day:

Friday Flashback #208

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)

Pic Of The Day #1220

You may remember Flight Simulator — Microsoft’s video game from 1982 through 2006.

If so, forget what you remember.

The brand-new iteration uses satellite imagery from around the world. It applies algorithms to detect where buildings should be, and creates 3-dimensional models of them. Users fly over their neighborhood. and can actually recognize buildings.

The other day, Nicholas Weiner strapped himself into the virtual cockpit. Here’s what he saw: Staples High School, the athletic fields to the east, and Bedford Middle School to the north.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. Enjoy the view!

(Photo/Nicholas Weiner)

Roundup: Staples High School, Book Sales, Eversource, Landmark Preschool, More


“06880” seldom reports “survey” results. Best Nail Salon in Fairfield County, Greatest Towns for Beach Strolling — those stories land in my inbox every day. Clickbait, all of them.

But I’ll make an exception for this one. It comes from a legit source — and it involves one of our town jewels.

USA Today just published a list of the best public high school in every state. Criteria included student and parent survey responses, teacher absenteeism, standardized test scores, and other measures of academic performance.

The Connecticut representative — complete with a handsome photo — is Staples.

Congratulations to all. At a time of so much educational uncertainty, it’s great to get even a glimmer of good news.

Staples High School. (Photo/Jennifer Kobetitsch)


The Westport Library Book Sale lost its spring and summer dates. But they sold “book bundles” online — and that encouraged them to open an online book store.
that it has opened an online book store.

They’re opening with a curated selection of “Surprise Book Bundles”: used books and CDs in various categories, for adults and children. More categories and items will be added soon. Click here to “enter” the store.

Purchases are available for pickup, by appointment, within 7 to 10 days after purchase, at the library’s upper parking lot.

The Westport Library Book Sale is operated by Westport Book Sale Ventures, a
nonprofit enterprise that supports the library, while providing employment for adults with disabilities.


During Tropical Storm Isaias, Frank Accardi got tired of seeing this message:

“OUTAGE UPDATE: Eversource crews are working hard to safely restore power as quickly as possible. While we always provide the best information possible, sometimes we may need additional time to provide our estimated times of restoration.”

He suggests this replacement, for customers to send after receiving their next bill:

“PAYMENT UPDATE: Westport families are working hard to safely restore solvency as quickly as possible. While we always provide the best information possible, sometimes we may need additional time to provide our estimated time of financial recompense to Eversource.”


Landmark Preschool in Westport reports that 23 new students have enrolled since June. While the school on Burr Road provides in-classroom learning, it also provides “parallel remote learning” from home, via classroom cameras and monitors.

Students will stay in small cohorts; hand washing will be increased, and ventilation improved; there will be additional cleaning crews and disinfecting foggers; faculty and staff will be given special training, and every teacher will be provided a special COVID sanitation kit, and clear face masks so youngsters will not miss visual cues.


And finally … folk/Latin/rockabilly singer Trini Lopez died this week, from complications of COVID-19. He was 83.


 

Roundup: Showers, Library, Cash, Kayaks, More


Staples High School is open today (Monday, August 10) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for Westport residents to use hot showers. Everyone must bring their own towels and toiletries. The Community Emergency Response Team will assist with scheduling and social distancing.

Yesterday, CERT volunteers delivered food to seniors in need.

The Westport Library is open from noon to 6 p.m. today too, so residents can charge their devices. Everyone must wear a mask, maintain social distance, and limit their stay to an hour.


Need a place to work?

Office Evolution — the work space in the office building opposite fire headquarters — offers a low rate for this week: a $50 day pass for a private office; $25 for socially distanced co-working, with no additional or hidden fees, and free Starbucks coffee! (Strict safety protocols are of course in place.)

Interested? Email Westport.CT@officeevolution.com or call 203-635-8770 and leave a message. They respond quickly. For more information on Office Evolution, click here.


A reader writes:

“Hocon is a big problem. This is the second storm where they  let us run out of propane when we have a partial generator. My husband started calling them Thursday to say that we had 55% in the tank and would run out by Sunday. He called Sunday 5 times explaining that we’re not getting power till Tuesday midnight or Wednesday. They promised to come today, without an estimated time, but never came.

“I have a heart condition, atrial fibrillation that gets very exasperated by heat.  We have a couple of fans going. When the generator dies, which will happen within the hour, we will have nothing to deal with this heat, and tomorrow’s heat.

“It’s so frustrating to have invested in a generator and not be able to get propane when we need it. This is so upsetting.”


Like many Westporters, John Karrel has been struck by the sudden necessity for actual dollars, quarters and dimes. He writes:

“A week ago, all bets were that cash was on its way out in our world. Yesterday I picked up dinner at March Burger Lobster. I’m now sitting outside Donut Crazy with my iced coffee. Both establishments: cash only!

“The volatility of a pandemic. The shorter-term volatility of a severe power outage. For sure, not our last power outage. Maybe cash does remain a viable Plan B.”

It sure does. Provided your ATM has power.

(Photo/John Karrel)


A reader writes: “Could you provide an update on Optimum, the local cable/internet monopoly? How widespread is their outage? When will they get back online? They are not answering calls or calling back.

“By the way, when I called to cancel part of my service due to an exorbitant monthly fee (before the storm hit), they told me they closed their cancellation department.”

I don’t have any info from Optimum (or Altice, the parent company). I don’t have any sources there either. If any readers knows the answers — or has a special number to call — please click “Comments” below.


You may not have had power. But Mystic Bowie and Talking Dreads had plenty of it yesterday.

The popular band rocked Westport, in the 2nd of back-to-back sold-out “Supper & Soul” shows at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Everyone — the powered-up and the power-less — had a fantastic time. Kudos to Mystic and the Dreads. And of course to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Which should probably change its name to “Chamber of Concerts.”

A small part of the large crowd last night.


For the past few days, Westport was up the proverbial creek, without the proverbial paddle.

But grab those paddles. August 14-31 are the dates for the 5th annual Paddle for the Sound. This year it’s virtual, so even the most land-locked lubbers can join.

For 17 days, Save the Sound will help participants raise awareness and funds to find and fix pollution sources, while leading habitat restoration projects throughout the Long Island Sound region.

Prizes will be awarded to 1st place finishers in the Paddle/Kayak, Sail, and Run/Walk divisions for total distance traveled or time spent doing their sport over the span of the event. Prizes also go to the top fundraisers.

Participants will start their virtual races from self-selected launch points, tracking their miles and time with each excursion. Those interested in supporting without racing can “raise their paddle” in an online virtual auction featuring private boat excursions, local artisan products, and a signed New York Giants jersey. For more information and to register, click here.


Local photographer Michael Chait, whose photographs are part of the permanent collection in the Brooklyn Museum, has an outdoor photo show and sale closer to home.

It’s next Sunday (August 9, 12 to 5 p.m., in the outdoor courtyard at 11 Riverside Avenue). It’s an eclectic, “kooky” exhibit of photos through several decade, including classic cars and cityscapes. All are framed and ready to hang.

A classic car photo, by Michael Chait


Back in action, and with power: (among many other businesses): Granola Bar, Ignazio’s, and Joey’s by the Shore Featuring Elvira Mae’s Coffee Bar. We are getting back to normal!

PS: For the past few days, Kawa Ni has operated a food truck.

 

And finally … utility crews have arrived in Westport from all over. I haven’t seen a Wichita lineman — but I had a great chat Saturday with 2 from Neosho, Missouri, just a few miles from the Kansas border. They drove non-stop to get here, and are driving back and forth from their hotel — which is in Chicopee, Massachusetts (north of Springfield). Westport owes a huge thanks to all the linemen (and linewomen), working hard for us from all around North America.

4 Months In: Pandemic Reflections

It’s mid-July. We’re now 4 months  — 1/3 of a year — into a world we never imagined in those innocent days of late winter.

When Westport schools suddenly closed on March 11, we were told “2 weeks.” That stretched into mid-April. Finally, the inevitable announcement: School was done for the rest of the year.

We’d already endured a lot. A “super-spreader” party landed Westport in the national spotlight. On the first nice weekend, hundreds headed to Compo. Within hours, town officials closed the beaches.

We foraged for toilet paper, figured out how to find curbside food, watched our hair grow.

Jeera Thai, downtown across from Design Within Reach, was an early adopter of curbside dining.

Those early days seem like a thousand years ago. The time before the pandemic — say, March 10 — belongs to another universe.

But this is the town, the country and the planet we inhabit now. Four months in to our new (ab)normal, here are a few thoughts.

My nephew and his wife had a child last week. What is it like to be born at a time when everyone a baby meets wears a mask? How can he make sense of the world without seeing smiling faces admiring his every move? And it’s not just newborns I worry about. The longer we all must wear masks, the harder it is for any of us to make the human connections so vital to all our lives.

Momentous world events shape the young generations that live through them. The Depression, for example, scarred people forever. For decades, men and women who now had plenty of money ate everything on their plate, because they still worried where their next meal would come from. They turned off lights in empty rooms, to “save electricity.” It’s too early to know how the pandemic will etch itself into the brains of young people, but I can’t imagine they’ll have a positive, adventurous view of the world.

On the other hand, it’s been fun watching so many families embrace the outdoors. They walk together, all over. Teenagers who seldom exercised took up running. Bikes were hauled up from the basement. The town is reopening now, but I still see more outdoor activity than ever.

. (Photo/Anna Kretsch)

I was impressed too by the number of teenagers who used their time away from school productively. I suggested to the players in our Staples High School soccer program that they try new activities. I expected eye-rolling. What I got was a number who learned how to cook, play guitar or write code.

We held weekly Zoom calls with our returning players. A couple of weeks ago, I asked what they have learned about themselves. The results were insightful — and inspiring. “I learned I need structure in my life. I wasn’t happy just sleeping until noon,” one said. “I had a great time with my siblings,” another noted. “I learned not to be afraid of spending time alone,” said a third. “I realized I really like myself!”

No one knows yet what the fall sports season will look like (or if there will be one). But when I return to the soccer field (whenever that is), I know I will be a different coach than before. I already feel things shifting. Little things that used to drive me up a wall — a referee’s call, or canceling a training session at the threat of rain that does not come — will no longer seem worrisome. Our players, and the joy they get from the sport, will become more important than ever.

With so many new rules and regulations, meanwhile, will many old ones seem insignificant? Does it really matter if, in the winter, dogs are unleashed on one part of the beach and not another? Or if, during the summer, we have bottles and cans at Compo?

As for the beach: One unintended consequence of the pandemic is that Westporters discovered Sherwood Island. The 232-acre gem — with walking trails, wildlife, a Nature Center and the state’s 9/11 memorial — has sat right there, virtually unnoticed by most of us, for decades. The secret is out now. And did I mention that for anyone with a Connecticut license plate, it’s free?!

Sherwood Island (Photo/Roseann Spengler)

Until the Y reopened for swimming, I spent an hour or two every day biking. It was great exercise, and with little traffic on the roads, I no longer feared for my life. My goal — which I did not meet — was to ride up and down every side street in town. There are lots of them! (Nearly every one ends in a cul-de-sac.) And boy, are our roads in terrible condition. Soundview Drive is smooth and newly paved. Everywhere else — well, I had a new reason to fear for my life.

From the start, we knew some restaurants would not survive. It’s so sad to think of those we’ve lost, like Da Pietro’s, Tavern on Main and Le Penguin. And Chez 180: The patisserie across from Jeera Thai opened just a few days before the coronavirus hit. Everyone raved about it. The doors are shut now; new furnishings and gleaming cases sit forlorn and empty. The timing could not have been worse.

Closings like those have made us realize the importance of so many (mostly non-Westporters) to our lives. Restaurant cooks; the folks who stock shelves and work registers at CVS, Walgreens, Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s; mail carriers, and FedEx and UPS deliver persons. There are literally thousands of others. Some lost work; others worked harder than others. Until March, we pretty much saw through and past them. Now we understand that they’re the men and women who make Westport go.

Volunteers also make Westport go. Many organizations lost fundraisers this year: A Better Chance. The Westport Woman’s Club. Sunrise Rotary. They do so much good for our town. They have not complained at all — but I’m surprised so little attention has been paid to their collateral damage.

A few days ago, I went inside Staples High School. Even in summer, it usually bustles with activity. The emptiness this time was overwhelming. A school without people is not really a school.

That same day, I saw a Dattco bus. I have no idea why it was on the road, or where it was going. But it made me wish — almost — that once again I could be stuck behind it, creeping along as it stops every 5 yards to serve one eager, backpacked (and unmasked) child at a time.

Minutes after the second plane struck the 9/11 tower — when it was clear the US was under attack — I had one overpowering thought: Our world has just changed forever. I did not know how — who could have imagined the effects on our airports, immigration system and political process? — but there is a clear, defining line. There was life before 9/11, and life after.

I had the same thought in the early days of the pandemic. Since then, that realization has become a reality. Once again, I am not sure what life post-pandemic will look like. But everything — from daily school bus rides and summers at Compo, to the way my 2-week-old great-nephew relates to his parents, peers and the entire planet — will be different.

Those are my admittedly random, very personal thoughts. What have you learned — about yourself, our town, the world — since March 11? Click “Comments” below.