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Wednesday, October 28 News

Kings Highway administration asked to quarantine after staffer tests positive for COVID

WESTPORT — The Kings Highway administrative team, some staff members and a small number of students have been asked to quarantine after being in the presence of a staffer who tested positive for COVID-19, according to Superintendent Thomas Scarice.

“To be clear, siblings and other family members of these children and staff do not need to quarantine,” Scarice said in an email to parents.

Ann Leffert will step in as interim principal with Ali Moran serving as interim assistant principal, he said. They will both serve as the school’s acting on-site administration until Oct. 6.

The news comes after Scarice outlined the district’s largely positive progress in reopening at a Board of Education meeting on Monday. Some early challenges were also discussed at the time, including the closure of Coleytown Elementary School after there was a confirmed case of the coronavirus.

“But overall it was a great start to the year,” Scarice said Monday.

Even with mitigating measures — such as masks and social distancing — having students be able to learn in-person was still critical, he said. Teachers have also begun taking their work home each day in case there has to be another transition to full remote learning.

“We anticipate we will be able to pivot much more quickly next time,” Scarice said.

Other challenges the district faced early on was technology issues and transportation during the transition between a.m. classes and p.m. classes, he said.

Suzanne Levasseur, district supervisor of health services, said the schools’ supply of personal protective equipment remains sufficient and kids have responded well to wearing masks.

“There was so much made about masks, but the kids are wearing the masks. They almost like to wear the masks,” she said. “We haven’t had any times where we had to discipline students or really had a problem with that.”

Board members questioned what the process and timeline would be for transitioning to a full in-person learning for at the least the elementary school level. Some nearby districts such as New Canaan have taken a phased-in approach to returning to in-person learning full time.

“Many, many parents are asking where are we in terms of a plan for a potential re-entry starting with the elementary level,” BOE Vice Chair Jeannie Smith said.

Scarice said while his original recommendation in July was to return to full in-person learning, the decision to open up incrementally was modeled on what other districts around the state did.

“I want to reiterate this continues to be a health and safety decision,” he said. “I don’t want this ever to be interpreted on my part or anyone on the administration or board that it is a demand, that it’s where the loudest voice is.”

Scarice said once four full weeks are complete, a recommendation may be made. But a decision for the middle schools will be held off until Coleytown Middle School’s building reopens, he said.

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“Our four week mark will be right around October,” he said, adding it was important to look at the trends as schools reopen.

Despite the largely positive progress, the closure of a school three days after reopening also still weighed on the community, he said.

“The day three positive case at CES had a cultural effect that won’t be captured here,” Scarice said. “We need to have the confidence of our faculty that what we’re doing is going to keep everybody safe, and the confidence of our parents and our kids.”

BOE member Lee Goldstein said she supported the current model and making sure it works instead of rushing a full reopening.

“So if we’re two weeks later — all the better,” she said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com

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