Tag Archives: Westport Public Schools

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.

Westport Schools Closed Until Further Notice

David Abbey, interim superintendent of the Westport Public Schools, sent this notice to all students and parents moments ago:

We have just learned that a number of Westport parents and Westport Public School students, in schools throughout our district, were in contact with an individual presumed to be positive with coronavirus.

Based upon discussions with and at the direction of Mark Cooper, director of health for the Westport Weston Health District, the Westport School District will be closed until further notice following today’s regularly scheduled dismissal.

This includes all after-school and evening activities, including athletics. We will immediately begin deep cleaning our schools, and in conjunction with the Westport Weston Health District will be consulting with state and federal officials.

Town’s COVID-19 Forum: Many Questions. Lots Of Answers. Much Unknown.

A small, well-spaced-apart crowd was joined by many more online participants this afternoon. They gathered, in real space and cyberspace, to hear from experts about the looming threat from COVID-19.

The Westport Library event — called “a forum in the Forum” by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — provided plenty of detailed information. Presentations were clear and cogent; questions were wide-ranging and thoughtful; answers were direct and honest.

It was a powerful display of active, coordinated town leadership on many levels, and a reminder that good government has a powerful place in society.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe (far right), and today’s COVID-19 panel at the Westport Library.

The key takeaways, from Marpe, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper, fire chief and director of emergency management Robert Yost, Westport Public Schools health services supervisor Suzanne Levasseur and others:

It is virtually inevitable that COVID-19 will come to Westport. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Our population is too mobile, and the virus is too relentless. In fact, it may already be here.

Town officials — including the 1st Selectman, Health District and public schools — are in constant contact with the state and CDC. Conversations are frequent, ongoing and productive.

There are dozens of “what-ifs.” No one knows how many people will be affected or how. Planning is taking place to cover many scenarios.

The best precautions include rigorous hand-washing, frequent cleaning of surfaces, and careful monitoring of surroundings and contacts. Plus, self-monitoring. And save face masks for health care providers and people who are already sick.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (left), who co-chairs the Legislature’s Public Health Committee, and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe demonstrate the best way to say hello, COVID-19-style.

If you feel ill but have not traveled to somewhere affected, are not in a high-risk category, or had contact with someone who is ill, contact your health care provider.

If, however, you have traveled to a high-risk area, or are in a high-risk category (elderly or immuno-compromised), contact the WWHD (www.wwhd.org; 203-227-9571).

The Westport Schools are being very proactive. This includes enhanced cleaning; education about the disease and proper hygiene procedures. and monitoring of student health. Nurses are on heightened awareness; there are signs, videos and plenty of soap and sanitizers in every school. Discussions are “ongoing” about things like field trips.

Here are some of the key questions from audience members and online participants — and the answers:

Should people over 60 be particularly worried? Those in this higher-risk group should follow CDC guidelines to limit exposure — particularly people with underlying health issues.

Where is testing being done? Right now, only in hospitals.

The in-person audience was small. But many more residents viewed the forum on the Westport Library’s streaming feed and Facebook page.

How is the Senior Center handling this? Director Sue Pfister said that, thanks to the day and night custodians, “it’s never been cleaner.” There are wipes and signs throughout the building, with an information table out front. “We are operating as normally as possible,” she said. “We are monitoring and educating, without panicking.” Clients are self-monitoring too, and not coming in if they don’t feel well. The staff is making contingency plans for meals for people who depend on the Center, in the event of closure.

Can we trust the CDC? Cooper said the organization is filled with excellent scientists, who are coordinating with colleagues around the world.

Who decides if schools will close? The superintendent — though Governor Lamont could make an emergency declaration. The cause could be infected students or staff, or as a preventive measure to avoid further spread. Daycare centers are also making contingency plans. Marpe noted that because many teachers — and other town employees — live elsewhere, decisions on closing are “complex.” For that reason, they may be made on a regional or statewide basis, rather than town by town.

What about budget implications? Marpe said he and the town’s legal staff are examining the implications of not being able to meet publicly for discussions  — though public meetings are mandated for things like budget decisions.

What about Metro-North? They have enhanced their cleaning procedures — and have seen a drop in ridership. The most at-risk riders should think about using alternative travel methods.

What about restaurants? Owners should check the CDC for checklists. Clorox solutions are the best way to clean. The WWHD will send owners detailed information, if the risk increases.

What about gyms, fitness centers and the Y? They are no more (or less) at risk than other gathering places. Most places seem to be wiping their equipment well; users can do the same.  “Social distancing” is important, as is good hygiene. There is no evidence that the virus is spread by sweat; it is spread through coughing, sneezing, and on surfaces.

What about Westport business with many employees who live elsewhere? Some are encouraging them to work from home. Bridgewater, for example, has taken the virus “extremely seriously.” They are in contact with the WWHD, and have limited travel by their employees.

Do Westport’s first responders have enough equipment? Yost says we have been very proactive. And if the situation goes on for a very long period of time? “Probably.”

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff were out in force at today’s COVID-19 forum.

Anything else we should know? Our emergency responders and the Health District are watching everything carefully — and everything else too. “We could have severe weather tomorrow that takes out power to everyone,” one panelist said. “We’re preparing for that too.”

In conclusion: Every action has a reaction. We don’t know what the reaction to all this will be, but town officials are planning assiduously and relentlessly. As for the tipping point of this pandemic: “We don’t know when it will come. But we do know it won’t disappear. We’ll keep watching, offering information, and making recommendations.”

The best sources of information:

Westport Schools’ Coronavirus Update

Earlier today, interim superintendent of schools David Abbey and supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur sent this email to all families with children in the Westport Public Schools:

In a continuing effort to update families with respect to Coronavirus (COVID-19), this letter is intended to address several questions and concerns that have been raised since our last correspondence on February 27.

Toward the objective of mitigating the spread of infection in our schools, we have been carefully monitoring new developments through close collaboration with the state Department of Public Health and the Westport Weston Health District.

In that we are in the midst of a rapidly moving set of circumstances, our approaches to preventing the spread of COVID-19 are subject to change. We will do our best to communicate any changes to our school programs or mitigation procedures in a timely fashion.

Handwashing

As of Monday, March 11, immediately after recess, and prior to eating lunch in the cafeteria, all students in grades K-5 will wash their hands with soap and water. Logistically, this will be accomplished by teachers and paraprofessionals bringing students to restrooms situated throughout the building. At the elementary schools, school nurses have done handwashing instruction and disease prevention strategies through morning announcements or through individual classroom sessions.

At Stepping Stones, our preschool students, assisted by teachers and paraprofessionals, will wash their hands with soap and water after morning unpacking, before snack and lunch, after coming in from the playground, and after using the bathroom.

At the middle school, staff encourage students to wash their hands with soap and water, and students are reminded to do so through digital messaging throughout the building.

At the high school, students have been reminded of everyday preventive practices, including hand washing, during Connections, their advisory period.

At all district schools, signage is present in restrooms and other locations, as a reminder about the importance of hand washing.

Cleaning Agents

Cleaning agents used in our schools are consistent with state requirements and meet the “green” standards established by our district “Tools-for-Schools” program. The custodial staff uses PC-103, which is effective against COVID-19 as are the hand wipes utilized by custodial staff. Yesterday, we received authorization from the state Department of Administrative Services to use chlorine bleach disinfectants. We will be procuring chlorine based products as another level of protection to aid in the control or spread of the virus.

Throughout the district, surface areas in classrooms, such as desks, are cleaned nightly with disposable wipes.

We have placed alcohol-based (70%) hand sanitizers in all of our classrooms for student and teacher use. If they have the inclination to do so, parents should feel free to provide their children with a bottle of hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes for their children to use in school.

Attached is a memorandum regarding district cleaning protocols in our schools, placed on our district website on March 3rd.

Bus Transportation

Dattco, our bus transportation carrier, is responding to COVID-19 through increasing its bus cleaning efforts. For example, they have informed us that school bus interior “high traffic” surfaces will be wiped down on a regular basis with disinfectant sprays and disposable towels. On the personnel side, drivers who exhibit or report illness symptoms will be encouraged not to report to work until they are asymptomatic.

School Closings

As the State Department of Education has directed: “Absent an emergency declaration from the Office of the Governor or Federal Government, school closures are local decisions made by the school district in coordination with and at the direction of the local health officials.”

In the Westport Public Schools, we monitor student health on a district-wide basis by tracking student absentee rates as well as monitoring students with influenza-like illness. Students with influenza-like symptoms are sent to our school nurses, evaluated, and if warranted, parents are called to take their children home.

Our protocols and approach to COVID-19 are being implemented and updated through close consultation with the Westport Weston Health District. It is impossible to plan for every possibility, as each situation is unique; however, if a student or staff member at a particular school is determined to have COVID-19, it is highly likely that the impacted school would be closed for 14 days.

Siblings of students with COVID-19 who attend other schools in our district would be requested and expected to remain at home for 14 days. Likewise, staff members with family members or close contacts that are determined to have COVID-19, will be requested and expected to remain at home for 14 days.

Given that each situation is different, our response to specific situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Decisions will be made in consultation with the Westport Weston Health District, the Center for Disease Control, and the Connecticut State Department of Public Health.

Continuity of Teaching and Learning

Under the leadership of Dr. Anthony Buono, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, and in conjunction with Principals, Curriculum Coordinators and Teachers, we are developing a number of strategies that, in the event of a school or district closing, will allow for a degree of home-based instructional continuity. Because we are asking our educators to plan for the possibility of school closings at the same time they are providing day-to-day instruction, we will have to redeploy some staff members, during the course of the day, in order to provide them with time to plan.

We will continue to share pertinent information with respect to this rapidly evolving challenge. In the interim, we encourage all families and staff members to take part in every-day preventative practices toward the objective of helping us maintain a healthy school environment.

Below are helpful links for families, which includes information tips for talking with children about an infectious disease outbreak:

https://www.cdc.gov/

https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Public-Health-Preparedness/Main-Page/2019-Novel-Coronavirus

Talking With Children Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks

School District Sends Coronavirus Info

Earlier today, Westport Public Schools’ interim superintendent of schools David Abbey and supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur sent this note to parents:

We want to assure you that we are carefully monitoring the status of Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) which continues to evolve internationally. In an effort to obtain the most current information, we participate in a weekly state conference call with the State Department of Public Health to receive information vital to the health and safety of our school community. In addition, we are collaborating on a daily basis with the Westport/Weston Health District and by extension, the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH). Fortunately, to date, no cases of 2019-nCoV have been identified in Connecticut.

While the risk of contracting 2019-nCoV remains low in our area, recommendations from health officials may change frequently as new information becomes available. Recently, we have received questions about international travel by families, students, and staff members. At this time, our District continues to follow the Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential 2019-nCoV Exposure in Travel-Associated or Community Settings issued by the CDC.  Please be assured that if there are health and safety risks to the community, they will be communicated and appropriate measures will be taken.

The District is also updating our operational pandemic plan to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning in the event that schools are closed. To that end, we are exploring alternate procedures for instruction as well as developing plans to guarantee essential office functions remain in place.

The same measures which prevent other respiratory viruses, including influenza from spreading, can prevent 2019-nCoV from spreading. As such, the district is continuing with standard infection control precautions in our schools, including systematically cleaning common touch points. In an effort to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, please remember to:

  • cover coughs/sneezes;
  • frequently and thoroughly wash hands;
  • routinely clean touched objects and surfaces;
  • keep children home when they have early symptoms indicative of flu (e.g. fever, headache, extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, muscle aches or runny nose with unusual tiredness); and
  • keep children home until they are fully recovered from an illness (e.g., have no fever, vomiting or diarrhea for at least 24 hours, are no longer significantly fatigued or in need of extra sleep, and have significantly reduced respiratory symptoms).
  • If you or your children have had recent international travel and develop flu/ COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider and please notify the Supervisor of Health Services.

Additional information can be found on the links below.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices

https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Public-Health-Preparedness/Main-Page/2019-Novel-Coronavirus

We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring this evolving situation and will provide updates as necessary.   Thank you for your support and help with respect to keeping our schools healthy and safe.

Meet Stacy Fowle: Westport’s Teacher Of The Year

Growing up in Westport, Stacy Jagerson was fortunate to have many superb teachers: “legends” like Dave Harrison, Sarah Herz, Nancy Roche and George Weigle.

She also had Jo Ann Davidson and Karen Ernst, at Kings Highway Elementary and Bedford Middle School, respectively. Both are former Westport Public Schools Teachers of the Year.

Stacy — now Stacy Fowle — moved back to Westport nearly 20 years ago. Her children have gone through the Westport schools. Last year, Enia Noonan — Fowle’s daughter Addy’s Staples High Italian teacher — was selected as district Teacher of the Year.

Every fall, a different educator is chosen Teacher of the Year. The newest honoree comes from Greens Farms Elementary School: 5th grade teacher Stacy Fowle.

She’s clearly learned a lot from her former instructors and current colleagues. But her career path was not always clear.

Stacy Fowle, with her Block “S” from the Staples High School soccer team. “That’s the last award I won, before Teacher of the Year,” she jokes.

At Staples she captained the 1984 soccer team, and sang in choir. But although she looks back on her 13 years in the Westport schools “very, very fondly” — and calls her education here “amazing” — Fowle was not always a standout student.

“There were some rough patches,” she admits.

She attended St. Lawrence University, but dropped out before graduation. She traveled in India for 6 months, then volunteered as an English as a Second Language instructor in New York City.

That inspired her to take grad school courses to become a teacher. But first, she realized, she needed an undergraduate diploma.

She completed her degree at Sacred Heart University, then entered the Bank Street program.

Fowle calls the school’s progressive approach “transformational.” Her educational philosophy — “very child-centered, not top-down lecturing” — was honed there.

Stacy Fowle

Fowle taught for 7 years at PS 234 in Tribeca. She spent the next 7 as a literacy consultant, helping teachers build reading and writing curriculums.

She was living in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001. By December, Fowle, her husband and 3 young children had moved to Westport. “We were ready,” she says.

She was ready too for a new challenge.

“Consulting is lonely,” she notes. “You’re an outsider. And you’re not always received well by teachers.”

Fowle missed having her own class, and “being on a team with colleagues.”

Meanwhile, she wanted to put all the ideas she was talking about into practice.

Fourteen years ago, she got that Greens Farms 5th grade job. She’s been there ever since. This district is a great fit, she says, for her child-centered approach to education.

Stacy Fowle (3rd from left), with her Greens Farms Elementary School “team”: Mary Ellen Barry, Chris Chieppo and Christine Theiss.

Teachers of the Year do not know who nominated them, or why. But Fowle suspects she was selected in large part because of her work around sustainability, and the composting program she helped develop at her school.

Students, staff, parents, cafeteria workers and custodians — all are involved. The concept has spread to other schools in the district. Non-school organizations have taken note too.

Fowle’s environmental consciousness comes from her family. Her mother, Sherry Jagerson, began composting in the 1970s. (Decades later, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve). Her brother Ty is a leader in the solar energy field.

Stacy Fowle with her brother Ty and mother Sherry, at the New York Climate March.

Fowle praises Westport school administrators — at her school, and the town school office — for their “full support” of Greens Farms’ composting initiative.

And — much like Miss Americas take on causes like civil rights or HIV education — Fowle is using her Teacher of the Year platform to raise awareness of sustainability.

In her speech at the public schools’ convocation — the first district-wide event of the year — and last night, when the Board of Education feted her, Fowle spoke passionately about the power of students to take on “hard work” like climate change.

“It’s real. It’s our future,” she says. “We need to talk about Westport schools as a leader not just in academics, arts and sports, but the environment.”

Greens Farms students avidly join in the “zero waste” effort.

Her words have already had an impact. At a restaurant the other night a Staples teacher recognized her, and came to Fowle’s table.

“She said she’s composting now. And she’s changing the way she works,” the Teacher of the Year says proudly.

Of course, Fowle adds, the school district honor is not hers alone. It recognizes “our initiative, and the work being done by so many kids and colleagues.” She also cites administrators, parents and community members, for their support.

So what’s been the reaction of her students, to the news that their instructor is Teacher of the Year?

Not much. After all, they’re only in 5th grade.

Besides, they’re too busy composting.