The social, mental and physical health — and the health of several school buildings — were the focuses at last night’s Board of Education meeting.
On the student side, Brian Fullenbaum reports that townwide health and physical education coordinator Chris Wanner and Staples phys. ed. teacher CJ Shamas presented an update on social and emotional learning.
Embedded in the high school curriculum for juniors, it addresses social and emotional skills from a growth mindset point of view. Video testimonials showed students enjoying the health classes.
Board member Elaine Whitney and Westport Public Schools chief financial officer Elio Longo provided an update on capital projects.
Paving is needed at Greens Farms, Coleytown and Long Lots Elementary Schools, plus Bedford Middle and Wakeman. All roads there are at least 20 years old.
The $1.6 million estimated cost is significantly lower than expected, due to a partnership with the town’s Department of Public Works.
The Saugatuck Elementary roof project is out to bid. Work is scheduled for this summer. It should proceed without state assistance, because the roof is beyond its useful life.
A new roof is planned for Saugatuck Elementary School.
Staples’ roof replacement can be deferred for a year. State assistance may be available.
In the area of capital maintenance projects — from $500,000 to $2 million — superintendent Thomas Scarice noted that outside companies can help maximize value, and stay on schedule and within budget. He would like to create a school modernization master plan, then use help from an OPM to get through the process, including larger maintenance projects. The board discussed collaborating with the town on capital projects.
The board approved a new policy for minority staff recruitment. It updates the former document with more inclusionary language.
Supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur’s COVID report noted a slight uptick in cases in Westport schools last week, to 13 cases. The district’s first vaccination clinic for staff — run in conjunction with Weston and Easton — is scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday, March 3) in the Staples fieldhouse. 250 people are expected to get shots.
Greg Naughton’s new film, “The Independents,” will be released virtually to art house cinemas on February 26. The wider on-demand release comes March 9.
But there’s a special screening — with Q-and-A afterward — at Fairfield’s FTC on Saturday, February 27.
That’s close to here. But the film has an even closer connection: Some of it was shot in Westport.
“The Independents” is a comedy/drama about 3 solo artists who collide at the same crossroads and discover harmony. They share a rollercoaster ride across America for a shot at musical glory.
The film stars (and was inspired by) the real-life folk-rock Sweet Remains. The Hollywood Reporter called it “an extremely engaging film (that) subverts all the clichés of the star-is-born story and proves there are plenty of offbeat ways to satisfy audiences without hewing to formula.”
Naughton — a longtime Westport resident — had quite a bit to do with “The Independents.” In addition to writing, directing and producing, he stars in it.
Click here for tickets and more information. Click below for the trailer.
As of February 1, 2,289 Westport. That’s 8% of our total population.
According to Westport Patch, we have 2,094 residents over the age of 75 — the first group in line for the vaccine (along with medical personnel and first responders). Nearly 54 percent — a total of 1,095 — have received their first dose.
Westport has plenty of small, independently owned liquor stores. Nearly every Westporter has a favorite.
Now a “superstore” has entered the mix.
Yesterday, trucks delivered supplies to BevMax’s new outlet in the former Pier 1 store — the Julien’s Pizza shopping center on Post Road East. In other words: directly opposite Castle Wine & Spirits.
BevMax has 8 locations in Fairfield and New Haven Counties, plus a nationwide shipping office in Stamford. There’s a BevMax in Norwalk, near Stew Leonard’s.
They bought the license of Saugatuck Grain + Grape, which had relocated from Railroad Place to Post Road West. The owner of a liquor store can move anywhere in Westport that zoning allows.
Last year, plans were underway to convert the entire Julien’s shopping center — except for the Bluepoint Wellness medical marijuana dispensary — into medical offices. The plaza has since reverted to retail use.
Seven Staples High School athletes signed letters of intent yesterday to play sports at NCAA Division I universities.
Congratulations to (from left in photo below): Kevin Lynch, University of Massachusetts lacrosse; Julia DiConza, Lehigh University lacrosse; Carter Kelsey, Seton Hall University baseball; Autumn Smith, Marist College soccer; Laine Ambrose, Boston College field hockey; Shira Parower, James Madison University lacrosse; Sam Milberg, College of the Holy Cross football.
MoCA Westport and Up|Next Teens are partnering to present a Winter Lights Festival at MoCA. It’s set for Saturday, February 27 (noon to 6 p.m.).
The Festival features a maker and crafts space in a large outdoor tent, with supplies and step-by-step instructions for families to work together to create winter-themed decorations. The decorations will be incorporated into a walk-through Light Path, to be lit at sun down. The public can view the experience through the following weekend.
Also planned: live performances by high school musicians, food from The Melt truck, and hot cocoa.
The Festival includes free entry to MoCA ’s exhibition “Hindsight is 2020,” showcasing nearly 200 high school student artists from across the region.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted onNovember 11, 2020|Comments Off on 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.”
Comments Off on Staples, Middle Schools Go All Remote Thursday and Friday
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.
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)
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 YorkTimes, 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.
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)
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!
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