WESTPORT — Citing a trend of increasing coronavirus case numbers across the state, Superintendent Thomas Scarice recommended the district remains in its hybrid model for the time being.
“I would suggest the full return happens when the numbers are trending downwards,” Scarice said at a Board of Education special meeting Tuesday. “I think that’s critical.”
He said the prudent approach is to stay the course for the next four to six weeks. A full return would be advisable when a downward trend is seen and the district is able to loosen some restrictions around movement in schools, he said.
“The area I’m really concerned about is that in a full pandemic classroom not only the pedagogy is different...but the students are largely kept to their desk for the day for the purposes of safety through specials, through lunch, through a very structured recess,” Scarice said. “We wouldn’t be going back to what we had in October essentially.”
He said while cases begin to rise, health officials are saying significant upticks may be seen in a month. The possible surge in coronavirus cases, which would simply cause a shift back to a hybrid model in four to six weeks, also impacted his decision.
“I don’t think bringing kids back fully for four weeks in a pandemic model is truly in the best interest right now when we have a model that is working very effectively by all accounts right now and what I observe with my own eyes as well,” he said.
Scarice said it was also possible the district could avoid a switch to fully remote instruction all year long by staying the course.
Some parents disagreed with the decision and highlighted several school districts have fully reopened at the elementary schools at least, or are in the process of doing it.
“What I’m hearing, based on trends and numbers, we should have been fully opened from the beginning of the school year and in no way would these new numbers force you to move to hybrid in that scenario,” said Chuck Haberstroh, a Westport resident.
Haberstroh said the decision was disappointing and hoped the BOE would push back.
John Mack, a Westport resident, shared similar sentiments.
“This is a really disappointing outcome,” he said. “This doesn’t seem to lead to a path to full in-person schooling and is so hard on students and parents.”
Other residents praised the decision.
Amanda Kirby, a Westport resident, said her family fully supported the decision to remain hybrid.
“The unique a.m. (and) p.m. model is working well, our children are learning in the most critical subject areas, and almost importantly we feel safe sending our kids to school,” Kirby said.
Elementary educators also pointed out the significance of the current model.
Kings Highway School principal Mary Lou DiBella said they didn’t know the trauma students may have walked into schools with due to the pandemic. She said they may have seen family members die, be very ill, or in some cases see their whole family sick.Read Full Article
“I think this model has really allowed teachers to wrap their heads, and their hands, and their hearts around kids very quickly and bring some of that trauma down,” she said, adding the importance of the social, emotional learning going on.
But BOE member Liz Heyer questioned if the district had an obligation to provide full-time school if it can be done safely. She added what the district defined as educational efficacy needed to be clear.
“I guess to my knowledge we don’t have clear criteria for that yet and I’d like to see, and I think we owe it to the community,” she said.