Tag Archives: Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice

Scarice Updates Town On Security And COVID

Last night, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent this message to the community:

Safety and Security: It is troubling to consider that the only period of time void of school shootings occurred during the remote learning and full quarantine in the spring of 2020. Again yesterday, another unspeakable act of school violence took the lives of 4 innocent children in Michigan. In Connecticut, there were reports of a prop gun in one high school, a stabbing just outside another high school, and a bomb threat in a neighboring district. These events are an unfortunate and heartbreaking reminder of the world our children are growing up in.

In Westport, our vigilance in keeping our students safe is resolute, and does not ebb and flow based on such tragedies. We are fortunate to have a strong partnership with our local police department, including regular patrols of a dedicated officer on our campuses, in addition to a full time School Resource Office at our high school.

Additionally, each school is staffed with full-time security personnel, and equipped with cameras and communication systems. Furthermore, our administrative team conducts regular drills to keep our faculty, staff and students fluent in procedures to maintain safety in the event of an emergency.

Finally, our increased focus on proactive measures to build community, while addressing emotional and mental wellness, serves to meet the needs of all of our students in providing interventions to those in distress. However, we count on our families to partner with us in open two way communication as no one knows your child better than you. Together, we can work to celebrate our students in the best of times, and support them in the most challenging of times.

COVID Update: Less than one month ago I shared with our families that COVID infection rates had hovered at levels we had not seen since May. In those few short weeks we have seen an increase in infections in the region, and the warning of the Omicron variant. There is much to learn about how this variant might, or might not, impact our community.  his is precisely why approaching the school year in 4-6 week increments is important.

Fortunately, hundreds of 5-11-year-olds have been vaccinated in town, or are receiving their second shot, in addition to the high rate of vaccination among our staff, secondary students, and the community at large.

State Senator Will Haskell and Long Lots Elementary School nurse Max Zimmer, at last month’s vaccination clinic for 5-11-year-olds, at Staples High School. (Photo/Dan Woog)

K-6 Weekly Serial Testing: With these developments, we will continue to administer our K-6 weekly voluntary serial testing program through the end of the calendar year at a minimum. Given transmission rates at that time, we will reassess the program and make considerations for the new year.

Lunch and Dismissal: Students have returned to the cafeteria for lunch with some schools making modest exceptions based on sizes of individual grade levels. We continue to distance to the maximum extent possible. Additionally, each school, particularly at the elementary level, revised dismissal procedures to determine the most efficient way to release students to parents who are not taking the bus.  Each school has a slightly different dismissal procedure based on a variety of factors (i.e. driveway capacity, traffic flow, etc.).

Vaccination Requirement for School Visitors:  Since the beginning of the school year we have required proof of vaccination for school visitors.  Additionally, the governor used his executive powers to mandate vaccination for all employees with the provision of legal exemptions. We will continue to require vaccination for school visitors but we will employ the same approach for unvaccinated visitors as we do for unvaccinated employees. Effective immediately, we will require evidence of a negative COVID test within 72 hours prior to visiting our schools for unvaccinated visiting parents and caregivers.

School Performances and Concerts: It is the time of year for school concerts and performances. When rates plummeted last month we were able to welcome audiences with 100% capacity. With the recent increase in infection rates, the Westport/Weston Health District and our medical advisor, Dr. Norman Wienberger, have both asked that we limit audiences to accommodate appropriate distancing between family units. Some schools might use alternative venues to accommodate all parents. Your child’s school principal will provide additional information on this topic.

We continue to recommend and expect all visitors will be vaccinated or test negative for COVID within 72 hours of attending a school concert or performance. Although we do not have the resources to check individuals upon entry after hours, it is an expectation and I am confident that our families will honorably respect this requirement.

This year’s Candlelight Concert will include audience and other restrictions. It may look different from this 2020 performance — but the 81-year tradition continues.

Universal Masking: The Governor’s universal masking mandate for schools remains in effect through February 15. It is possible, based on vaccination and infection rates, that the Governor will revisit this provision after the New Year.  In the interim, we will maintain universal masking.

Modified Quarantine Procedures “Screen and Stay”:  =We have successfully implemented the new quarantine procedures, “Screen and Stay” in the past month for students identified as close contacts. Vaccinated students and staff are not required to quarantine.

We will continue to monitor conditions as we flexibly employ mitigating measures in response to the pandemic. While rates have increased recently, I want to assure our families that throughout the entire pandemic, like most school districts, we have experienced little to no virus spread in our schools.

Taking Pride In Westport Schools

When Kayla Iannetta was in high school, questioning her sexuality, she had no resources. Lacking clubs or helpful adults, she was on her own.

Now a Staples High science teacher, she quickly signed on as an advisor for the school’s LGBTQ and allies group. (It began in 1993, as the Gay Straight Alliance — the first such organization at any Connecticut public high school. I was a proud co-founder. The name was then changed to the Gender Sexuality Alliance. It’s now called the Staples Pride Coalition.)

Iannetta loved Staples’ “welcoming and open community.” But the small group of Pride Coalition students felt they were not taken seriously by everyone.

She vowed to help. With her co-advisor, math teacher Nicole Giuliani, they’ve expanded the group’s reach. Members have given presentations to health classes, created a newsletter, helped plan Westport Pride’s townwide celebration in June, and served on a panel for the Unitarian Church’s 8th grade Our Whole Lives program.

Staples Pride Coalition members and supporters, at last June’s high school Pride celebration.

All were enthusiastically received. And all have convinced the members that what they’re doing fills an enormous need.

They’re forging ahead with a Gender Identity 101 presentation for Westport Toether, programming at Toquet Hall (movies, a scavenger hunt, a drag show), and a Google Form for students, staff or parents to ask questions.

As the Pride Coalition members talked, Iannetta realized that LGBTQ issues are not limited to high school. Middle school is where they first had questions, they said. Students needed resources there too.

Why not have a District Pride group? she wondered.

Westport Public Schools’ Pride Coalition logo.

Bedford Middle School principal Adam Rosen and Coleytown counterpart Kris Szabo were eager to help. Iannetta found staff members to help: Cassie Carroll and Christie Cardinale at BMS, Jennifer Peppe at CMS. Both groups are now thriving.

The middle school groups — called Bedford Pride Coalition and Coleytown Pride Coalition — are thriving too.

“The most important thing is education,” Iannetta says. “These kids are excited to be part of a change. They want to make Staples a better place, and middle schools better places for LGBTQ+ students coming up in the district.”

Iannetta is energized by support from administrators — everyone from superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice, Staples principal Stafford Thomas and vice principal Chase Dunlap, on down — and from teachers who ask questions about pronouns and seek inclusive curriculum ideas.

She and Sarah Magilnick — another Staples staff member on the school’s team of 4 working on LGBTQ+ school resources — are creating resource pamphlets, for questioning students and allies.

Yet as excited as she is about the new direction of Staples Pride Coalition, and the creation of the 2 middle school groups — all 3 are known collectively as Westport Public Schools Pride Coalition — she knows there is plenty of work to be done.

Even at the high school, some members feel the need to be anonymous. They’ve been rejected at home, or fear they will be.

But — like their advisors — they’re undaunted. “That just makes them want to do this work more,” Iannetta says with pride. “They want to reach younger students. And, maybe, their own parents too.”

Schools Survey: Input Sought From All Westporters

As part of the Westport Public Schools’ efforts to develop a long-term strategic plan, a series of surveys has been sent to parents, staff members, administrators, and students in grades 5 through 12.

But all Westporters have a stake in our school system.

“As we project the world our students will inhabit as young adults, it is critical to have robust input from all members of the school community,” says superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice.

He and fellow educators have developed a survey for Westporters without students currently in the school system.

Information gathered from the surveys will be combined with feedback from spring and fall focus groups, and a variety of other data sources, for the initial design of the plan.

“Your contribution in completing this survey will help inform this work,” Scarice says. The deadline is November 15. Click here for the survey.

 

 

Schools’ COVID Update: Teachers’ Masks, Visitors And More

Six weeks into the school year — as the Westport schools see a continuing drop in COVID cases — superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice offers this update.

Starting tomorrow (Wednesday), the Westport Public Schools will allow teachers in grades 7 to 12 to teach unmasked, provided they are vaccinated, in the front of the room, and students are masked and seated.

The option will be considered for kindergarten through grade 5 after November 1, when there is more information on vaccines for children ages 5-11.

Lunch tents will remain in place for the rest of the month. They will be re-examined at the end of the month, pending a better understanding of K-6 vaccinations.

Scarice notes, “lunch coverage at the elementary levels is very challenging. We will move as quickly as we can to return to ‘normal’ lunch.”

A normal school cafeteria.

Westport schools will continue to require visitors to show proof of vaccination at least through December 31. Larger groups of visitors will be permitted to meet in person with building administration permission, provided there is an opportunity to distance (for example, larger rooms), and that visitors are masked with proof of vaccination.

Elementary parent conferences will be held in person for vaccinated parents, virtual for unvaccinated parents. Virtual accommodations for any parent can be made.

With a number of performances scheduled in the next 2 months, the district and Westport Weston Health District decided to monitor COVID transmission rates to guide mitigating measures. Measures to consider include the amount of capacity allowed, and spacing between attendees.

The district is open for building and space rental by community groups after hours. Universal masking is recommended; however, the district does not have however, the district does not have the capacity to enforce measures outside of school hours.

Scarice Addresses “CRT” Controversy

Thursday’s “06880” post about a website criticizing the Westport Public Schools’ focus on “assertions of racism in our community” — and the hiring of NYU Metro Center to perform an equity audit on our school system — drew over 60 comments.

It also elicited a comment from Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice. He says:

Culture wars are not new to public schools. The recent “critical race theory” national discussions have found its stage in local public school settings. Across the country there is evidence of outlandish claims, emotional appeals, inaccurate inferences, and personal attacks, while other honest inquiries stem from curious and inquisitive parents and community members.

In either case, it is important to respectfully address concerns constructively, in a way that surfaces specific claims about the actual practices in our schools in Westport. Finding common ground is essential to the ongoing performance of public schools.

The current hyperbole of “CRT” strays widely from the original academic legal theory studied at the advanced graduate level. To my knowledge, no Westport Public School educator has this advanced training in “CRT.”

In fact, you will have difficulty finding any K-12 educator trained in this theory.  There is no CRT “curriculum” in Westport. We study all types of thinkers and theories in schools. Teaching kids “how” to think, not “what” to think, is an obligation of educators. Teaching kids to use critical thinking skills to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, etc. is a primary goal of education.

In 2017 the Westport Public Schools adopted a 3-year strategic plan. A strategic commitment to diversity and inclusion is explicitly stated by capturing the efforts the district had made under the heading, “We Value Diversity and Inclusion.”

Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice.

In partnering with the community, that work has continued with a variety of efforts, including the initiation of an equity study. This study, which like most studies will be iterative, encompasses only part of the work that we do with our students every day.

The goals of the study are to assess the extent to which our students feel a sense of belonging and affiliation in our schools, the extent to which there is equitable access to all programs and services that we offer, and to work to enhance programs to prepare all students for the incredibly diverse world they will inhabit as adults.

The study, facilitated by consultants at NYU, has shed light on some of the disparities in outcomes for different groups of students. However, this work is intended to benefit each and every student in the Westport Public Schools.

The professional educators and locally elected Board of Education will determine the action steps as a result from the study, not outside consultants. I am confident that the community will see this work as very inclusive, and unlike the hyperbole around CRT, not divisive.  Ultimately, the findings and action plans will be considered for the Board of Education’s adoption of a long-term strategic plan.

Scarice Offers Update On Cheshire Football Game Bias Allegations

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice provides this update on allegations of antisemitism and racism at last Friday’s Staples High School football game, at Cheshire High: 

As the community is aware, there were allegations made on social media Friday evening including: antisemitic and racist comments made in the stands, the presence of a Confederate flag, and the waving of an Israeli flag. Since that time,  the voices of individual students throughout this investigation have given us a clearer picture of events and a constructive plan to move forward.

School administrators and law enforcement from both Cheshire and Westport immediately commenced investigations. From the outset the Anti-Defamation League, through Connecticut Regional Director Steve Ginsburg, offered and provided their support to both communities.

Over the past 5 days the town’s respective athletic directors, high school principals, first selectmen and police chiefs communicated directly with each other. I have spoken to the Cheshire Superintendent nearly every day since Friday.

The Cheshire Public Schools administration and police departments have shared their findings with our administration as a result of their interviews with eyewitnesses, including the 2 students who brought the Israeli flag to the game. Seven Staples cheer team students were interviewed by Staples principal Stafford Thomas, as well as a student of color who was the recipient of disgusting racial slurs via social media.

Screen shot of the Israeli flag, in the Cheshire High School student section. It was later removed.

Along with Chief Foti Koskinas, First Selectman Jim Marpe and Steve Ginsburg, I had the opportunity to meet with Westport area rabbis and Jewish communal leaders on Monday, as well as a group of Westport community Black leaders yesterday. This proved to be critically important, as Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of The Conservative Synagogue followed up by speaking directly to Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Scolnic of Temple Beth Shalom in Hamden, who knows the students who brought and waved the Israeli flag.

Finally, the time between last Friday night and today provided Westport community members the opportunity to share any eyewitness accounts, as well as their thoughts and concerns.

From the beginning, the Westport Public Schools fully committed to finishing our investigation by speaking with every student or community member personally impacted by these events. The process was thorough and comprehensive. I am confident that we have clarity on what happened Friday night, as well as a constructive plan to move forward.

An Israeli flag was waved throughout much of the game Friday night by 2 Cheshire students, particularly when Cheshire scored or Staples committed a penalty. After halftime, members of our cheer team approached the Cheshire Police to ask that the Israeli flag be taken down. Although the Cheshire Police and administration confirm they directed the students to take the flag down, there are Staples student reports of the flag waving later in the game.

After the game the social media account, “Wreckers SuperFans,” and the Staples cheer team, posted an image on Instagram of the Israeli flag waving in the Cheshire student section with a message about anti-Semitic and racist remarks and insulting chants throughout the game, as well as the waving of the Confederate flag.

Staples Superfans waved a banner in 2018.

Both school administrations confirmed that chants of “Daddy’s money” were directed at Staples students and players.  This was not done in unison with the waving of the Israeli flag. Racist or antisemitic chants were not corroborated.  There is no corroboration of the presence or sighting of a Confederate flag.

The Staples and Cheshire “SuperFans” respectfully communicated late Friday evening through social media, and the “Wreckers SuperFans” took down the post following that discussion.  The cheer team post was taken down following a communication with the Staples cheer coach.

Saturday morning, a Staples student of color who was not at the game posted a comment on a friend’s Instagram responding to the earlier post about the game.  He posted, “The audacity.” What transpired in response was a series of horrific and unspeakable racial slurs directed towards this Staples student. The source of the slurs was an untraceable “burner” account, which is a social media account used to post anonymously to avoid having posts traced. This is most disturbing, and we offered to provide support for this student.

In the investigation, the Cheshire administration shared that the 2 students who waved the Israeli flag are Jewish. and that they brought the flag to the game because it was a school spirit “Red, White & Blue Nite” in the student section. In response to doubts about this claim, in my meeting with the Westport area rabbis and Jewish communal leaders on Monday, Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of The Conservative Synagogue offered to speak directly to the Rabbi of Temple Beth David in Cheshire to offer his services in resolving this matter.

Rabbi Wiederhorn was referred to Temple Beth Shalom in Hamden, where the 2 boys worship, and spoke directly to Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Scolnic. Rabbi Scolnic shared that he has known the boys their entire lives, that he knows them very well, that they are not mean-spirited,  and that they are very proud Jews. Rabbi Scolnic is completely confident that there was no malice or antisemitism intended, and that unfortunately these accusations have mischaracterized the 2 boys.

Based on feedback from the Cheshire administration, the Cheshire police department, the Westport area rabbis and Jewish communal leaders, Rabbi Scolnic, and our partners with the ADL, I have no reason to question these conclusions.

High school sporting events can be raucous and intense. The school spirit from these events can be palpable. However, for visiting teams, these types of events can be intimidating. Traditionally in high school sports, the goal of the fan section is to vigorously cheer for the home team, while at times taunting and making the visiting team uncomfortable.

Some members of our community have questioned the intent of the waving of the Israeli flag. In fairness, our Staples athletes and fans have experienced antisemitism at athletic events in the past. Westport has a considerable Jewish community, and approximately one-third of the cheer team is Jewish.

The waving of the Israeli flag at a high school sporting event played against a town with a considerable Jewish population is peculiar. It is not necessarily right or wrong, but in my 25+ years in education, I have never witnessed the Israeli flag, or any other national flag except the U.S. flag, waved at a high school sports event.

The series of events, the history of antisemitism directed towards our students, the peculiarity of the waving of the Israeli flag at a football game, along with the intensity of the night, contributed to a considerable sense of threat on the part of Staples students. It is critically important to affirm the impact of the night on our students and to support them as we constructively move forward, and to meaningfully learn from these events.

Again, I have no reason to question the conclusions of the Cheshire administration, the Cheshire police department, the Westport area rabbis and Jewish communal leaders, Rabbi Scolnic of Temple Beth Shalom, and our partners with the ADL.

However, it is important to note again that heinous, racist, untraceable messages were indeed sent through social media to a Staples student of color in the aftermath of this game. These messages have been turned over to the police, and we will continue to offer support to this student.

In discussions with Cheshire Superintendent Dr. Jeff Solan, and with valuable feedback from the Staples cheer team parents and Connecticut Regional Director of the ADL Steve Ginsburg, Dr. Solan and I will offer an invitation to the Cheshire and Staples students involved to convene, facilitated by the ADL, so that amends can be made and appropriate closure can be provided to both groups of students. In dealing with young adults, there are opportunities for learning experiences in events such as these.

Finally, we invite all of the students involved to participate together in the “Walk Against Hate” on October 10 in Hartford.

The administration is committed to encouraging and supporting students who come forward with concerns about how they, or others, are treated.  Going forward, the district will clarify the reporting process for students with concerns at athletic events and extracurricular activities.

Again, it is critical that the community understands the level of transparency and thoroughness that we have taken to address this matter. We remain committed to fighting antisemitism and racism in any form.

Scarice Addresses Allegations Of Antisemitism, Racism

Social media exploded last night, with allegations of antisemitic and racist behavior by Cheshire High School students at last night’s football game against Staples.

Images of an Israeli flag, and charges of racist chants, were shared widely. Host Cheshire defeated the visiting Wreckers in a non-league game, 42-14.

This morning, Westport Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice promised to investigate fully, and take action if necessary. At the same time, he urged caution and no rush to judgment, until all the facts are clear.

Scarice said:

“Late last night I was made aware of a number of social media posts alleging antisemitic and racist actions and comments directed towards Staples players and students during the Staples/Cheshire High School football game in Cheshire. I want to assure the community that any allegations such as these are taken with the utmost seriousness.

“I’d like to share some of the steps we’ve already taken. I received a message from the Cheshire Superintendent at 11:40pm last night, and he assured me that the district and Cheshire law enforcement are investigating this matter. We will continue to communicate until we have reached a resolution.

“I have spoken to Stafford Thomas, Staples principal, and Marty Lisevick, Staples athletic director, and they will speak with each and every Staples student or adult who has factual information about this matter.  “First Selectman Jim Marpe and I spoke this morning, and it is confirmed that our police chief, Foti Koskinas, will be in contact  with the Cheshire police chief.

“Perhaps most helpful in addressing this matter is the instant support that I received from the Director of the Connecticut Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League, Steve Ginsburg. Steve has already spoken with me and Chief Koskinas, and to representatives from Cheshire, including their superintendent and police chief. We are all committed to cooperating, investigating, and addressing this matter.

“This incident was brought to light by some damning images and posts on social media. Given the volatility of social media, I caution all members of the community to take a measured approach in addressing matters such as these. It is necessary for the school administrations, and police departments when necessary, to gather facts before taking punitive action. If we confirm acts of anti-Semitism or race-based hate, we will assertively act. If there are misunderstandings, we will work together to learn from these events.

“Our  school administration will continue its investigation and follow up at the end of the day on Monday. If you were present at the game and have  information of any acts of antisemitism or race-based hate, please contact the Staples administration.”

Student Enrollment Spikes; Schools Add Sections

The COVID surge in real estate has led to a spike in students.

Westport’s 5 elementary schools have 88 more students than officials planned for previously. With a total of 2,335 boys and girls in kindergarten through grade 5, that means an additional 6 teachers.

Brian Fullenbaum reports that assistant superintendent of schools John Bayers provided those figures at last night’s Board of Education meeting — the day before school opens. He noted that Long Lots had the highest rise — 581 students, up 40 over projections — resulting in 5 kindergarten sections.

Coleytown and Greens Farms both added kindergarten sections, while Kings Highway added one in 4th grade.

Numbers continue to fluctuate. Bedford and Coleytown Middle School figures, and those for Staples High, were not provided last night.

Enrollment at Long Lots rose more than any other elementary school.

District supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur said that Westport’s COVID rate is higher starting school this year than last year. There were 18 cases in town last week, 4 of them in school-aged youngsters. Some of the new cases were in fully vaccinated people.

In Westport, 94.9% of 12-17-year-olds have received at least one vaccination. 86% are fully vaccinated.

Vaccinated students do not need to quarantine if they have been in the same class as someone who has been exposed — unless they show symptoms.

Levasseur also noted that the statewide mask mandate in schools runs through September 30. Westport does not allow teachers to unmask, although the state permits it.

Visitors to schools must show proof of vaccination.

There is no remote learning this year. However, the district has 8 on-call tutors for students who need to quarantine.

Levasseur said that the town has expressed interest in a sate program that would allow free voluntary testing for students in grades K-6.

Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice and Westport Police captain Ryan Paulsson talked about patrols at Westport schools.

Currently, a School Resource Officer monitors Staples. An additional officer was posted at Bedford last year.

Scarice suggested that there should be a patrol position for a police officer to monitor all 7 elementary and middle schools, including perimeters. He noted the positive influence on students of seeing the officer as a a friendly face and role model.

The Board of Ed also discussed the Staples High School roof project. The original budget was $5.3 million; this might be lowered to $5 million. If approved on September 8, the project is scheduled to start after school ends in June. It would be finished by the start of the new school year.

Scarice Offers School Year COVID Info

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent this information today to Westport families:

I truly hope that this summer provided you and your family with much needed rest and relaxation. As the first day approaches on August 31 I want to inform families that there will be multiple updates to keep you apprised of our reopening plans. You can expect regular updates from my office, or from your child’s building principal, in the coming days. Additionally, the reopening resource on our newly designed website (more on that next week!) will be fully updated, as the most recent guidance from the state Department of Public Health continues to unfold.

Although the outlook with regards to the pandemic is not as positive as it was in June, we will continue to work towards providing as much normalcy as possible for your child as they return to school. Like last year, we will approach matters in 4-6 week increments, while thoughtfully considering layers of mitigating measures.

We have learned a lot since we opened schools last year. While we have hoped that we would begin the year back to pre-pandemic practices, it is clear that we are not quite there yet. With high vaccination rates in our community, and a prudent approach, we can successfully begin the school year, and in consultation with our medical advisor, and our local and state health departments, we can roll back mitigating measures as the conditions permit.

The following are the most current practices in place for the first day of school:

Universal Masks/Face Coverings:

  • Masks will be required for all students and staff while in the school building and on the school bus. This continues to be an executive order until September 30, and is consistent with recommendations from both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Mask breaks will continue to be provided optimally when outside or students are spaced greater than 6 feet.

  • No masks will be required outside for recess or other outside activities.

  • Fully vaccinated teachers will have the opportunity to remove their masks during active instruction at the front of the classroom per DPH guidance.

Vaccines:

  • Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 13D on August 19, 2021. In short, all Pre-K-12 staff are required to have the Covid-19 vaccine. Any employees eligible for medical or religious waivers will be subject to routine testing.

Social Distancing:

  • Social distancing of 3 ft. will be implemented to the extent possible in the classrooms and other settings.

Socially distanced school buses (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Lunch:

  • Return to pre-pandemic provision of school lunch services.

  • Additional seating will be made available at all levels (i.e. elementary, middle, high) during lunch in order to allow for extra spacing, including outside seating for students during lunch waves.

Visitors:

  • Visitors in the buildings will be limited to educational or school business needs.  School visits need to be approved by the building administration.

  • Given the Governor’s mandatory vaccination announcement Thursday, it is possible that visitors will be required to be vaccinated.

After-school Activities:

  • After school activities will continue but will follow the spacing and masking guidelines.

Building Cleaning:

  • Routine and standard cleaning protocols will be in place. Surface transmission has been found to be minimal.

Hand Washing:

  • Hand washing will continue to be encouraged throughout the day, and the extra sanitizer will be available throughout the buildings.

 

Quarantine Practices:

  • Quarantine practices will continue based on the guideline of being within 6 feet for 15 minutes over a 24 hour period to a person who is positive for COVID-19.

  • Due to limited transmission in classrooms last year, the CDC has made an important exception for students in the classroom setting only. Students in the classroom where everyone is wearing a mask will only be quarantined if they were within 3 ft. of another student positive for COVID-19.

  • Vaccinated students and staff will not need to quarantine but will be asked to obtain a test within 3-5 days

  • Quarantine length will be continued as it was at the end of the school year and consist of a  PCR or antigen test at day 5 or later and return on day 8 if the test is negative and the person is experiencing no symptoms.  If no test is obtained the student or staff member will be able to return on day 10 if they are symptom free.

  • Students or staff positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms or the date of the positive test and may return after the 10 days if they are symptom free.

Travel:

  • We will continue to recommend CDC guidance for travel both interstate and international.

Ventilation:

  • Ventilation includes HVAC systems that optimize the most air to be taken into the building. Merv 10-13 filters are used.

Supports for Students in Quarantine or Isolation:

  • Students needing to quarantine or isolate as a result of COVID-19 will receive certain educational supports while in quarantine.

  • At the elementary level, these supports will consist of access to essential assignments through Google Classroom, twice weekly scheduled contact with the classroom teacher, and twice weekly contact with support staff to assist in work completion.

  • At the secondary level, this will consist of access to posted assignments and communication with teachers via email as needed and, for quarantine periods extending beyond 5 school days, scheduled time with staff to support students during and after quarantine.

  • For students who are medically unable to attend school for a verified medical reason, the district will continue to implement its Homebound Instruction Policy 6173. Individuals with questions about this policy or procedure should contact Michael Rizzo, assistant superintendent for pupil services.

  • These supports will be revisited periodically, likely every 4-6 weeks, to determine if additional interventions are warranted based on the number of students requiring these services.

District COVID-19 Dashboard:

  • Our on-line COVID-19 dashboard will continue to be updated daily and available on our website.

What Can Families Do?

  • Obtain a vaccine for all those eligible 12 years of age and older.

  • Continue to complete a daily home screening to monitor students each morning for any signs of illness and  anyone with signs of illness should stay home from school and contact your school nurse.

  • Please report any COVID-19 cases to our COVID -19 hotline at 203-341-1016 or email PositiveCovidReport@westportps.org

  • If a student has had close contact with a person with COVID-19 they should contact their school nurse.

You can anticipate additional updates in the coming days. These are some of the more salient district wide updates. Building principals will send further school-specific messages as we approach the first day of school.

Roundup: Bolts, Ospreys

Uest

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Yesterday, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice addressed the easing of COVID restrictions in Connecticut. He said:

Both the CDC and state Department of Public Health have maintained their recommendation for masks inside the school building for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff for the remainder of the current school year.  However, with our low community transmission rates in both the town and our schools, as well as an increasing number of vaccinated staff and students, masks will no longer be required for students when outdoors for both recess and PE.

The State Department of Education announced that there will be no remote learning requirement for the upcoming school year (2021-2022). The Westport Public Schools will not offe remote learning as a permanent instructional option for next school year, unless otherwise mandated by the CSDE. The remote learning option, like a number of other approaches and investments, has been critical to our remarkable success this year. Although students have experienced success in this pandemic year, if anything else, this year clearly proved that there is no replacement for in-person learning. We look forward to welcoming all students in-person for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

As the end of year events begin to pick up, I ask that we all do our part to continue to thank our faculty, and all of our support staff across the system, for their extraordinary work this year. There was no playbook. We approached the year in 4-6 week increments. Yet as we look back, we carefully navigated a generational pandemic to serve our students and while earnestly attending to their social, emotional, and academic needs. A great deal will be written about this era. I, for one, will remember the people and the acts of kindness, commitment, and professionalism that carried us towards an increasingly brighter light at the end of this tunnel.

No more masks at recess!

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The town of Westport has leased 2 new Chevy Bolts for staff field work. They’ll be used for municipal inspections by the Public Works Engineering Division and the Assessor’s Office.

A cost benefit analysis has proven that these vehicles are both environmentally friendly, and cost effective.

The choice of Chevy Bolts was based on their overall low price, good reputation, and compact size. The cars also have a low maintenance cost and a longer expected service life than competitors. Both vehicles are at the standard option level.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says, “We are very proud of Westport’s advancement in electric vehicle usage and municipal charging stations. Investments such as the Police Department’s purchase of a Model 3 Tesla are proving to be beneficial, and we expect the same for the municipal fleet. These Bolts help move Westport closer toward meeting sustainability goals.”

From left: Assessor Paul Friia, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Dawn Henry of Sustainable Westport, Finance director Gary Conrad, Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich with the new Chevy Bolts.

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Several readers have not seen the Fresh Market ospreys for awhile. I asked “06880”‘s resident expert, Carolyn Doan, for an update She says:

“The osprey are incubating right now. so they are very difficult to see in a nest that is high up.

“Usually the female does most of the sitting while the male brings back food. He does take over for her from time to time to give her a much needed stretch or break. She is the one with a more speckled chest. His chest is more white (in case you wanted to try and discern between the two if you notice one in a tree).

“If not fishing, the one taking a break is usually in a nearby tree. In this case there is a big pine tree to the right of the Fresh Market nest. You can usually see one of the pair there. Or look across the street behind Dunkin Donuts. At the top of a bare tree behind the building you will see a large bird. (Usually the male. He loves this spot for some reason.”)

“The babies are due at the end of the month!”

A recent osprey photo. (Carolyn Doan)

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Surprise! Beechwood Arts — the innovative, immersive series — opens its grounds tomorrow (Sunday, May 23, 52 Weston Road), from noon to 5 p.m.

The copper beech and other trees and flowers are blooming. And, founders Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito say, they miss their Sunday afternoons with their friends.

“Stop in to say hello, have a lemonade, walk the grounds, bring your own picnic,” they say.

“The main house will not be open. But it’s likely you’ll hear Frederic practicing for his Classical Smackdown II (Thursday, May 27, 7 p.m.)

“Our 5-star rated carriage house and studio summer retreat will be open, so you can take a peek while you’re here.” Both will be listed for summer rent on AirBnB June 1.

The Beechwood grounds.

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Yesterday’s mention of the anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic prompted this email from alert — and history-minded — reader Matt Murray:

“My grandmother was a friend of the engine builder/designer Charlie Lawrence (2nd autograph from left in photo below).

The day before the flight, Mr. Lawrence asked my grandmother, ‘Do you want to see this fellow take off at 5 a.m. to fly solo across the Atlantic?’

“She replied, ‘Charlie, you’re drunk.’ She did not go. But because she was fluent in French, he asked her to write Lindergh’s letter of introduction for when he landed. As a thank you, she received this picture of Lindbergh and Lawrence and their signatures, taken just before he took off.”

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Yesterday’s “06880” also brought mention of Margot Liotta. The 2019 Staples High School graduate was one of 4 recipients of a Drew Friedman Community Arts Center Foundation scholarship.

Turns out she’s as artist in more ways than one.

In addition to the photograph that helped win her a grant, she’s a bass guitarist, singer and songwriter. She’s transferrin to Berklee College of Music — and has just released her first song, “Aries.”

Her boyfriend and former Staples classmate, Zach Rogers, produced it, and plays guitar. He’s transferring to Brown University.

Margot and Zach have played together for several years. They’ve done gigs at Wakeman Town Farm — and will play there again this summer.

A third ’19 grad, Kevin Ludy, did the artwork and promotion. He’s studying music management at Syracuse University.

Click here for various ways to hear (and purchase) “Aries.”

Margot Liotta and Zach Rogers, at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Jarret Liotta)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is yet another view of a Canada goose, and her goslings. They look so cute when they’re young.

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)

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And finally … on this day in 1762, Trevi Fountain was officially completed and inaugurated in Rome.