Tag Archives: Westport Public Schools

Roundup: Munchkins, Drugs, Halloween, More


Hey, Westport kids (age 5 to 13 ). If you’ve wanted to be in an amazing Staples Players production, here’s your chance!

Players’ radio theatre kicks off with “The Wizard of Oz” this Sunday (October 25, 6 p.m.) — and they want to hear your best munchkin voice.

Send a recording of you saying “follow the yellow brick road!” (munchkin-style). Players’ senior officers will pick 5 winners. Those recordings will be played on air during the live “Wizard of Oz” broadcast. (Click here for details.)

Winners also receive a $10 gift card to Saugatuck Sweets.

Click here, then click the blue “Submit Recording for Munchkin” button to upload your file. Include your name and phone number in the recording. The deadline is 6 p.m. Friday (October 23).

Need inspiration? Click below.


This Saturday (October 24) is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

You can celebrate with the Westport Police Department. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they’ll be at the Senior Center collecting unused and/or outdated pills and patches. Vape pens are okay if the batteries can be removed.

If the vape pen battery cannot be removed, try an electronics chain store. Also not accepted on Saturday: liquids, needles and sharps.

The service is free and anonymous — no questions asked. For more information, click here.

PS: A year-round collection bin is located in the lobby of Westport Police headquarters. Prescription drugs can be properly disposed of there at any time.


The good news is: This Saturday  (October 24) over 100 Westport kids will take part in the 10th annual Window Painting Contest. They’ll vie for prizes in 3 categories: Scariest Artwork, Best Halloween Theme, and Most Original.

The more good news; 48 businesses all around town — shops, restaurants, services, delis, fitness centers and more — have offered up their windows.

The bad news: That’s not enough. The sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce needs at least 20 more, to fill the demand.

They plead: Please donate your business window! You’ll do the town a service. In fact, it will be the perfect Halloween “treat.” Click here to register your window.


This Saturday (October 24), the United Nations turns 75 years old.

For over 50 of those years, Westport has celebrated that birthday with colorful flags. They fly every UN Day on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. That’s fitting: its namesake founded by the local United Nations Association, and Westport’s’ UN International Hospitality Committee.

On Saturday (11 a.m., Town Hall front steps), a public ceremony marks United Nations Day. First Selectman Jim Marpe, Hospitality Committee vice chair Bill Hass, and Staples High School Model UN president Lucas Slater and vice president Aidan Rogers will speak.

Special guest speaker Aye Aye Thant will discuss the importance of the UN. She should know: The Westport resident’s father is former UN Secretary General U Thant.

After the event, a bipartisan expression of support for the UN takes place at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. Marpe and local legislators will gather near the flags of UN member countries — which have flown there proudly, for decades.

(Photo/Jeff Simon)

Mike Burns spotted this sign on Compo Road South, near Longshore.

Finally, a candidate we can all agree on!


The Westport Public Schools’ guiding principles include social and emotional awareness, sincere kindness, principled thoughts and actions, and constant learning.

Several students have been selected, for embodying those principles. They are Caroline Caggiano, James Dobin Smith, Rachel Greenberg, Colin Konstanty, Natalia Maidique and Kyla Race.

Congratulations to all!

Three honorees (from left): James Dobin-Smith, Colin Konstanty, Caroline Caggiano.


How foggy was it last night? Very, as Andrew Colabella’s shot of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge shows:

And finally … in honor of Staples Players’ “Wizard of Oz” radio broadcast (see story above):

 

 

Scarice Explains Schools’ Full Reopening Pause

On Tuesday night, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice told the Board of Education that the current hybrid model — 2 days in person, 3 out for middle and high schoolers; morning and afternoon sessions for elementary-age youngsters — will continue at least through December.

In an email yesterday to Westport families, he described that decision. He wrote:

Last night I was asked by the Board of Education to share my decision regarding the next phase in our school reopening plan. I am most grateful for the opportunity to work through this process in collaboration with a team of committed Board of Education members, as well as all members of our school community.

In short, following a public examination of the advantages and disadvantages of a full reopening, last night I recommended that the prudent course of action at this particular point in time is to remain in our current model for at least the next four to six weeks while monitoring the trajectory of infection rates.

This will be a year of responsiveness, i.e. responding to trends in changing data, responding to feedback from parents, students and educators regarding our performance, and responding to any possible breakthroughs that might alter the direction of our way of life during the pandemic (i.e. treatments, testing, vaccines, changes in the efficacy of specific mitigating measures).

I fully understand the entrusted responsibility of decisions such as these and I feel the weight of that responsibility. That said, beyond delivering the best educational experience possible for our students, I also feel responsible for any efforts to pull the community together during polarizing decisions and possible divisiveness.

I intended to make a decision based solely on transmission rates and our ability to maintain our mitigating measures in a full return. In full candor, what I did not anticipate was the impact that the current elementary instructional model would have on my thinking in the next phase of reopening.

It is true that a number of school districts across the region that originally began in a hybrid model are now fully opened for on-site schooling, particularly at the elementary level, and these districts have experienced very low rates of COVID incidences at the elementary level.

Furthermore, as promised, we administered an internal assessment of our mitigating measures. The results are very promising in assuring that not only are the current measures effective, but with some modifications, they show promise to be maintained in a full return, with some exceptions.

That said, I’d like to reiterate a comment from my last parent letter where I indicated that it is critical that any changes in our schooling models are responsive to trends in virus transmission rates. Absolute rates remain in the low risk category, yet weekly data has demonstrated a consistent increase in virus transmission. Yesterday our state experienced the highest positivity rate since June, and just over the border, Westchester County saw the largest jump in positive cases since May while hospitalization rates recently doubled.

Westport students will continue to learn in school — and at home.

Our local Westport/Weston Health District (WWHD) has advised that we take a cautious approach in any reopening moves as they expect an increase in infection rates. There is evidence of an increase in rates of infection at the present moment.

Although there appears to be a window for a full return before the rates advance to a level that warrants additional restrictions, based on current trends in virus transmission, I do not see the value of what would likely be a temporary return. The trade off is not our current elementary model for a “normal” classroom and schooling experience. The trade off is the value of our current elementary model for a “pandemic classroom”.

As I articulated last night, with substantive support from the elementary principals and our Elementary Curriculum Coordinator, Ali Moran, our current model enables our faculty to deliver an instructional program during this time that would be restricted in the “pandemic classroom.” Our current model empowers our teachers to work closely with individual students and small groups, actively moving within the confines of our mitigating measures to ensure that academic progress is not lost, but actually advanced. It also supports social/emotional development in ways that would be compromised in a fully reopened “pandemic classroom.”

This week we have engaged in an analysis of our entire K-12 reopening instructional model with focus groups at each level for teachers, parents, and students. This information will be instrumental in our efforts to improve our programs for students. There are clearly areas for improvement. Although we will stay the course, this feedback could alter our practices across all levels, elementary, middle and high.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

If we are to be assured of anything it is that the landscape will continue to change. We’ve seen this since the onset of the pandemic in March. Guidance on masks, virus transmission on surfaces, and most recently on the effectiveness of neck gaiters, has evolved and changed regularly. In fact, my own thinking has changed as I received input from the school community and was able to conduct classroom observations in each elementary school. I anticipate that changes will continue and our responsiveness will mark our success.

Our next step is to receive the feedback from our focus groups and take action. It is likely that this will begin with reconvening the district wide School Reopening Committee. Updates will be forthcoming as we continue to move forward.

Given the advantages and disadvantages of a full reopening, I am confident that we can balance safety with desirable instructional experiences for our students by taking the prudent course of action at this particular point in time. We will continue to monitor the changing environment and look to fully return when infection rates stabilize and trend downward so that we are able to loosen the restrictions in the educational setting.

 

Unsung Hero #159

Back-to-school 2020 was nothing like years past.

This COVID-filled fall there was a lot less focus on new clothes, backpacks and binders. Parents and kids paid much more attention to masks, hand sanitizers and the amount of space between desks.

It’s a new world. And students, teachers and administrators are smack in the middle of it.

Back to School Night is virtual. Staples Players does choreography outside, on the tennis courts. There is no lunch in the elementary schools.

Behind those changes are human beings. Getting to where we are today was a gargantuan task. It’s not perfect — as superintendent of schools Tom Scarice notes often, it’s a fluid work in progress — but it is a tribute to the Westport Public Schools staff that our public schools are open, with adaptations made for both in-person and distance learning.

Think about it. Teachers have to learn new technology, balance the demands of students sitting a few (at least 6!) feet from them with those a few miles away, create new lessons, take on new tasks — all while figuring out (and worrying about) their own kids in their own schools, not to mention worrying about being back in an environment with many other people, after 6 months away.

Administrators spent the entire summer devising new schedules, monitoring class sizes, measuring classrooms and hallways, creating protocols for lunchrooms and playgrounds and gyms, answering a squintillion questions (many of which had no answer), all while assuaging the fears of some staff, parents and children who did not want to return to school, and others who did not want to stay home.

Then they did it all over again — and again and again — because, like clockwork, the rules and regulations changed.

This is not Westport. But it could be.

Think too about all the school personnel we seldom think about (but always should): Custodians. Cafeteria workers. Secretaries. Nurses. Bus drivers. Substitute teachers. Crossing guards. Security guards.

All are crucial to the functioning of a school. All are doing things differently this year too. All have their own personal concerns, but all care deeply for the buildings they serve, and (more importantly) the boys and girls in them.

No education decision pleases everyone. And every decision about COVID-19 is more controversial than even start times and budgets.

There have been glitches. There will be more. The internet will go down. The number of positive cases will go up. The future is uncertain. But everyone connected with the Westport Public Schools has planned — as best as possible — for today, tomorrow, next week, next month and next year.

That’s why all of them are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

If you see anyone involved with any of our schools, thank them for all they do.

From a safe, masked distance, of course.

A message of support, from a grateful Westporter.

Roundup: School Calendar And Kudos, Fitness, Fishing, More


The start of school may look unfamiliar — including the calendar.

But when you look at the Westport School Student Art calendar, you’ll realize that some things never change. Fortunately.

Despite disruption, the Westport Public Art Collections has produced its 2020-21 calendar. As always, it features great K-12 student art

Calendars can be purchased online (click here) and at ASF Sports & Outdoors (1560 Post Road East).

As always, proceeds support the care and maintenance of the fabulous Westport Public Art Collections. Works hang in all public buildings and are placed in outdoor parks. The most recent addition: the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” sculpture donated by Staples graduates Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, to be installed soon near the Westport Library.

The cover of the 2020-21 Westport Public Schools calendar was drawn by Sophia Sheng, Coleytown Elementary School 5th grader.


Speaker of back-to-school: Staples High School teachers Deirdre Flores and Sarah Stanley spotted this sign on Pumpkin Hill Road.

As they stopped to take a picture, the homeowner cheered them — and thanked them from her porch. It made their day — and made them proud of what they do, and where they do it.


Missing your fitness? Wondering how you’ll survive whatever’s ahead when the weather turns cooler? Thought about taking a fitness class, but uncertain about how they work?

Head downtown on Saturday, September 12.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association sponsors its first Health and Fitness Expo. JoyRide, RowHouse, Pure Barre and Athleta will all stage live classes outdoors, on Main Street. All will include levels of fitness and ability. All will of course follow COVID-19 requirements.

Vendors will also present health and fitness concepts. Church Lane merchants may join in too.

For more information — including how your business can participate — email events1@westportdma.com.


As summer ends, a shout-out to Alec Udell. Son of Staples grad Jeff Udell, he was visiting his grandmother Judy and went fishing at Compo, on the jetty by the cannons.

Using very light tackle, he caught this 30-inch striped bass. After a photo op, Alec released it safely back into the water.


And finally … today in 1888, George Eastman patented the first roll-film camera, and registered the name “Kodak.”

YMCA Adds Morning Child Care

For many families, a new item has been added to the back-to-school list of pens, notebooks and snacks: child care.

As Westport rolls out its hybrid schedule, working parents — whether outside the home, or in — seek options for new times.

For decades, the Westport Weston Family YMCA has offered a great after-school program. Now it adds morning child care.

Students in the program will be transported to and from Coleytown, Greens Farms, Kings Highway, Long Lots and Saugatuck Elementary School. The newly expanded Y has enough room to keep kids in small, socially distanced groups.

The Y’s Bedford Family Center expansion.

“The Y has served the community for more than 97 years, during which we have made it through many challenging times together. The COVID-19 pandemic will not be any different,” says CEO Pat Riemersma.

“After 10 weeks running Camp Mahackeno and seeing first-hand how essential it was for the campers after the spring closures, we knew we needed to offer a program to help families navigate this difficult time, “says Y camp and family services director Jesse Kanaple.

Safety measures include

  • Daily temperature and health screening for staff and participants.
  • Mandatory mask wearing for staff and children (youngsters will have “mask breaks”).
  • Enhanced cleaning of space and equipment.
  • Enhanced focus on personal hygiene

Lunch and snack must be provided by parents or guardians. Financial assistance for the program is available. For more information and registration, email jkanaple@westporty.org, or call 203-226-8981.

Just as at Camp Mahakeno, youngsters in the Wetport YMCA child care program will wear masks.

School Superintendent Reports On Fall Planning

New superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice sent this email to all Westport families last night:

Last night [Monday] I had the fortune of participating in my first business meeting of the Westport Board of Education as the superintendent of schools. I am honored to serve in this role and it is indeed humbling to lead this esteemed school community.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

However, like most things in our lives right now, my transition into this role is unusual. Similar to the patterns of our personal and professional lives that have undergone profound changes over the past four months or so, I have foregone the typical incremental induction period for full immersion into the work before us.

Although I am disappointed to abandon the opportunities to meet and develop rapport with individuals across the system, I am fully aware of the community’s urgency to not only develop, but to communicate the reopening plans for the 2020-2021 school year.

With that, I will dive into an update on our work in preparing our schools for the upcoming school year and reserve a more traditional written statement to the community for a future date.

The Context

As I shared at the Board of Education meeting last night, I have found that there is a great deal of fear and uncertainty in communities across the country and it is a fragile time. To complicate matters, there are some contradictions in professional recommendations and guidelines in how to effectively respond to the pandemic. Additionally, there are demands from our state leaders and questions from our parents, our faculty and staff, and our larger community,

Yet, as the public health community confronts this novel virus and learns more by the day, and after considering the fundamental role schools play in child and adolescent development, confidence has grown among many in the medical field that reopening our schools for all students for on-site full day schooling is the appropriate, and necessary, course of action.

Such professional organizations as the American Academy of Pediatrics have weighed the benefits of mitigating measures such as school closures and concluded that the goal of the coming school year should start with all students physically present in school. In addition, Governor Lamont has also called on Connecticut towns and cities to welcome all students for on-site full day schooling for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Governor Lamont encourages all schools — like Staples High School, shown here — to open this fall.

In response to this call, we will work as a system to institute the necessary safety measures to ensure a high quality learning environment, including social and emotional learning, for all students.

However, these calls come with caveats. First, endorsements of a full reopening of schools for all students are predicated on low transmission rates of the virus in communities. Currently, the transmission rates are such that a full return to school in the fall is justified.

Secondly, any return to school must include mitigating measures such as physically distancing to the extent possible, limiting transitions, cohorting groups of students where possible, regular facility disinfecting, compulsory hygiene practices, effective screening measures, and face coverings.

With low transmission rates and rigorous mitigating measures, I encourage the community to welcome a full return to school this fall. Although this approach will not eliminate risk as there are no ”zero risk” approaches, evidence has emerged that schools appear to be low risk settings for virus transmission if the community transmission rates remain low and the mitigating measures are followed with fidelity.

The district will respond with a hybrid, or full distance learning model, if transmission rates surge. The metrics for this decision will be provided by the Connecticut State Department of Public Health and the local Westport/Weston Health District.

Next Steps

As we move forward into the summer months we are obligated to submit a plan to the Connecticut State Department of Educations for the reopening of our schools. This plan is due July 24. However, there will be a full preview and deliberation on the components of the plan at the July 20 public meeting of the Board of Education. This plan will be posted for review prior to the meeting.

The final product will be a comprehensive document crafted by the education and health professionals serving on our “Westport Reopening School Committee.” This plan will contain the volumes of work conducted over the past month related to:

  • Health and Safety – the specific mitigating measures that will be employed to minimize the transmission of the virus while supporting the social and emotional wellness of our children and adolescents
  • Facilities and Operations – the cleaning, disinfecting and infection control measures that will be in place to limit the transmission of the virus, as well as the transportation and food services practices that will be instituted
  • Teaching and Learning – the pedagogy, scheduling and overall learning experiences that will provide purposeful and regular live interactions between teachers in students, whether engaged in on-site schooling, or a blended/distance model
  • Co-Curricular Programming – the extra-curricular experiences that provide programming to meet the physical, artistic, and enrichment needs of our children and adolescents.

Critical partnerships with local medical professionals and public health experts have provided a framework for the development and implementation of the plan. In addition, these professionals will provide ongoing consultation in advancing mitigating measures, identifying and treating cases of transmission, and effectively tracing contacts after transmission.

Lessons learned from the spring distance learning have provided our professional educators with valuable experience in the pursuit to continually improve our teaching and learning. Live instruction, naturally when students are engaged in on-site schooling, has emerged as a necessity for any blended or distance learning model. These approaches will augment the current pedagogy employed by our teaching staff.

As confidence grows in an environment with low transmission rates and strong mitigating measures, it is important for parents to understand that the Governor’s call for a full return to school comes with an important option for parents. You, as a parent, have the option to choose a distance learning model for your child in lieu of on-site schooling.

The primary features of this model will be included in the Westport reopening plan. In the near future, the school district will follow up on the initial parent survey recently administered to accurately project the number of parents that will invoke this option in order to appropriately plan for upcoming school year.  You will have the option to subsequently modify your choice. Further information will be provided related to these procedures.

As superintendent, I am committed to increasing the frequency and substance of communication to the school community. In the future, I intend to provide brief insights to our work on a regular basis. This initial communication is critical in setting the stage for the next steps in our plan to return to reopening our schools. Thank you for your attention and support as we work to serve the children and adolescents of the Westport community.

Sincerely,
Thomas Scarice

And Westport’s Teacher Of The Year Are …

Traditionally, the Westport Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year is announced with a flourish, at the all-staff opening convocation.

He or she is cited — along with runner-up colleagues — for a wonderful combination of dedication, innovation, passion, compassion, pride and professionalism.

This year, the district is announcing the honor early. It goes to — literally — the entire staff.

Director of human resources and general administration John Bayers says:

As we think about starting the process again for selecting Westport’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, the selection committee and I feel this is not the time to shine a special light on one educator in the district. Instead, we feel that every teacher in the Westport Public Schools deserves acknowledgement for their profound efforts during the school closure period.

For the 2020-2021 school year, the district will award all teachers the distinction of “Westport’s 2021 Teachers of the Year.” This award will recognize the accomplishments of our certified staff in supporting our students, families and colleagues during the COVID-19 crisis. It is a celebration of the innovative approaches and resilience of character demonstrated by every teacher, library media specialist, counselor, psychologist, speech pathologist and social worker.

In addition to the tremendous work of our certified teachers during the COVID-19 crisis, we also wish to recognize the tireless efforts of our non-certified staff. The custodians, secretaries, maintainers, nurses, health assistants, technology staff, paraprofessionals, building substitutes, athletic trainers, coaches, co-curricular activity/club advisors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, support supervisors, security guards, school lunch staff and interns are at the heart of what makes our distance learning and community outreach programs successful. To that end, we would like to honor each of these colleagues as recipients  of “Westport’s 2021 Heart Award – Supporting a Stronger Community.”

The district is collecting stories about the creative, supportive ways in which staff members have responded during the pandemic. They’ll be shared at the opening convocation, in place of the speech typically given by the Teacher of the Year.

It’s a great idea. But it might take this year’s honorees a while to see this story about them.

Right now, they’re too busy working.

Unsung Heroes #143

The other day, interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey sent a “Dear Colleagues” letter to all Westport Public Schools staffers.

With his usual clarity and care, he noted the many contributions of a number of school district employees, in a wide range of areas. He said:

I am writing to thank you for the extraordinary work you are doing, and have been doing during the past month or so, as we struggle through this unprecedented challenge. Your dedication to our students, district, and larger Westport community has been nothing short of remarkable – even while dealing with the impact that COVID-19 is having on your personal and family lives.

During this crisis it has become evident that there really are no small parts in the work we do as public school educators. I speak of everyone who works for the Westport Public Schools – certified and non-certified. Regardless of your job descriptions, you have made contributions within and beyond your formally defined roles. A number of you have shown genuine courage in doing so.

So, thank you to:

Our teachers and administrators who, in the face of the pandemic, and in rapid time, have worked tirelessly and creatively to design and redesign a distance learning plan that is serving our students so well.

Our tech team for providing us with so much new and necessary professional learning – and for doggedly and expertly ensuring that our systems remain up and running.

Our paraprofessionals, who when called upon have continued to capably support our teachers, including providing direct service to students.

Our nurses, supported by our health assistants, even prior to school closing, while calm, sensitive and professional, protected our health – as they helped us navigate through unfamiliar territory. Since school closing, they have contributed time, expertise and materials to the larger Westport community.

Our secretaries and assistants, for supporting us in many ways, such as developing schedules for us to re-enter buildings, organizing our work, and communicating with the school community.

Staples’ popular head custodian Horace Lewis leads a great — and essential — staff. The other schools have equally dedicated crews.

Our custodians and maintainers who have continued to clean and maintain our buildings, so that they remain operational and safe – allowing us to continue the critical functions of district work.

Our security officers who have provided an array of services, including making certain that students don’t put themselves in danger, by congregating at school fields.

Our central office support staff for seeing that the essential functions of the district, such as paying vendors and meeting payroll, remain in effect. In this instance, special mention must be given to staff in payroll who, in the face of considerable adversity, have moved heaven and earth to get the payroll out to all of us.

Our substitutes, who are helping to maintain instructional continuity when it is necessary to fill in for a colleague.

Thanks also goes out to the Chartwells team. Although not technically district employees, they have continued to provide lunch and breakfast to students in need.

In the final analysis, words are insufficient to express the thanks that you deserve. I do hope that someday, when we are on the other side of this crisis, and surely that day will come, you can look back with pride on behalf of what you have done. One thing is certain, when I look back, I will always be proud of having been your colleague.

I wish the best of health to you and your loved ones.

That’s a wonderful summation of this week’s Unsung Heroes. Those accolades are rich, and well-deserved.

But Dr. Abbey left out one name: his own.

A year ago, he joined the district on a temporary basis. Actually, he re-joined Westport. Years ago, Dr. Abbey served as a special education coordinator here. He moved on to other posts — including principal of New Canaan High, then superintendent of schools there.

Dr. David Abbey

We knew we were lucky to lure him out of retirement. We have been luckier still to have him lead us during this turbulent time. In the wake of a chaotic resignation — and facing major issues such as the closing and reopening of Coleytown, later start times and now the COVID-19 pandemic — he has brought not just the stability we desperately needed, but wisdom, fairness, honesty, grace, and a much-needed sense of humor.

On July 1, Dr. Abbey hands the reins to Tom Scarice. He too is a superb choice. Given the nature of the times — and the fact that Dr. Abbey was here for just a year — it’s unlikely there will be a festive townwide sendoff (or even a formal thank-you) for all that he’s done.

David Abbey is not the type for big celebrations, anyway. But I hope others join me in thanking our entire district for all they’ve done during the pandemic, and in honoring Dr. Abbey for his leadership of the district through this crisis — and so much more. 

COVID-19 Roundup: School District Help; Who’s Open, Necklaces, Goggles And More

Earlier today, interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey emailed a district-wide update to all parents.

He noted many examples of how — behind the scenes — the Westport Public Schools are helping the town deal with COVID-19. For example:

The district has transferred “a significant amount” of personal protective equipment to town agencies. School nurses and health assistants have helped organizing and distributing that equipment — hundreds of N95 masks, cloth masks, gloves and gowns — as well as thermometers and office supplies.

In addition to PPE, the townwide science department has supplied goggles for firefighters.

The school district has distributed sanitizing wipes, cleaners and hand sanitizers to fortify the town’s supplies. In addition, they have provided access to equipment for sanitizing emergency vehicles and office spaces.

Collaborating with the Westport Weston Health District and Department of Human Services, school nurses are also reaching out to older Westporters through weekly phone check-ins. Besides checking on their clients physical and mental health, the nurses help them obtain vital supplies like medication and food.

School security officers have monitored athletic fields, to help limit the number and size of gatherings.

Chartwells — the school district’s food service vendor — is providing grab-and-go meals for Westport police officers. The district is also working closely with Human Services to identify and support school families in need of food beyond the grab-and-go lunches and breakfasts that are currently provided.


A number of Westport retailers are doing all they can to stay afloat. They offer curbside pick-up and delivery on items in stock; some even have new spring  inventory.

But among their many problems: How can people know they’re open?

Betsy Pollak helps, big time. Her “Our Town Crier” online newsletter is usually chock full of shopping news. Retailers pay to be mentioned.

In true community spirit, Betsy’s latest edition is totally free. Called “Curbside Enthusiasm” (great name!), it offers info, details, hours, links and photos for a ton of merchants: ASF, JL Rocks, Silver Ribbon, Arogya Tea and more. (Click here to view.)

Jennifer Tooker, Melissa Kane and Matthew Mandell helped compile the information.

A 2nd edition is in the works, for Mother’s Day. It’s perfect for restaurants as well as retailers. To be included, email info@ourtowncrier.com.


The Senior Center has started a YouTube channel for residents to stay active. It includes 39 Zoom courses focusing on mental and emotional health, fitness, creativity and wellness. To register for a class, call 203-341-5099. Click here to sign up for email updates. For more information, email seniorcenter@westportct.gov.

In addition, the Southwest Connecticut Agency on Aging has developed a helpful guide with plenty of information for seniors and their families. Click here to view.


Staples High School junior Eliza Oren makes gorgeous necklaces. She’s selling them for $10 each. Proceeds go to the Gillespie Center, to help pay for food and other items needed during the current crisis.

She’s already sold nearly $1,000. When she reaches that goal, her parents will match it.

You can Venmo her: @elizaoren. Or you can leave cash in your mailbox; she’ll pick it up. For details, email elizaoren@yahoo.com.


Need a reminder to wear a mask? Kevin Carroll spotted this, at Weston Gardens:


The other day, Julia Marino put out a plea for ski goggles. They help protect healthcare professionals working with COVID-19 patients.

As usual, “06880” readers came through. Yesterday her mom, Elaine, brought 34 pairs to a nursing home in Milford.

Julia is a member of the US snowboard team. And a gold medal winner in Westporters’ hearts.

PS: The bin will be out again through tomorrow evening. To donate new or used goggles (adult or children’s size): sanitize them with wipes or spray, place them in a sealed plastic ban, then leave them on the front steps at 129 Sturges Highway (near Cross Highway). Questions? Email esmarino@msn.com.


Werner Liepolt reports that he recently tried to download a new book, but his Westport Library card had expired.

No problem! The library staff renewed it remotely, and within minutes he was reading. The email is Circulation@westportlibrary.org.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


And finally — though Rachel Platten did not record “Fight Song” about COVID-19 — it sure is apt these days:

School District Offers Initial Information On Effects Of Closure

As the Westport Public Schools join other districts in the state and country in navigating fast-moving, uncharted waters, assistant superintendent Anthony Buono and interim director of pupil services Ann Leffert sent this information to all families:

Our district has been actively planning for COVID-19 and the possibility of a prolonged school closure. As of Thursday, March 12th, all district schools will be closed until further notice.

School Closures and Continuity of Learning

This week, state officials provided districts with information regarding short-term school closures (up to 2 weeks).

At that time we were informed that if districts were to decide to close schools for up to 2 weeks, they would be required to make up lost days by adding days to the school calendar and/or changing vacation days to school days.

Adding back lost school days would enable the district to meet its obligations concerning state and federal laws, including those associated with special education services. Any closure beyond two weeks would require further consultation with the Connecticut State Department of Education.

If the decision is made to close school beyond a few days, activities, to the extent possible, will be provided to students and families that would allow for continuity of learning and to help students transition back to school.  These activities are encouraged, but not required.  Activities are intended to:

  • keep students academically active;
  • reinforce and sustain current learning; and
  • preview curricular content.

These activities will not be graded, and students will not be required to submit completed work. There are many opportunities for students to engage in appropriate learning activities through their Chromebooks (grades 3 through 8), which all students in those grades should have at home.

Special Education

Many students receiving special education and related services will be able to access the learning materials that are being sent home from classroom teachers.  Some work has been modified for specific student learning needs.

In addition, where appropriate, related services providers (occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech/language pathologists, social workers and school psychologists) have provided activities that can occur at home. None of these learning materials are meant to replace instruction; rather, they are provided to engage students while they are home.

Once school reopens, student services will resume. School days missed will be made up as described above.

Future Communication

We will continue to share pertinent information with regard to this rapidly evolving challenge. In the interim, we encourage all families and staff members to take part in everyday preventive practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and maintain healthy school environments.