August 3, 2020
Dear Westport Community Schools families:
I am sure you are anxious about what learning will look like for your family in the fall. We have been working very hard to develop plans that best meet the needs of our students and staff, both in terms of student/staff safety and academic instruction. This has been the most challenging task that I have ever encountered in my over nineteen years of educational administration. Having to develop plans when we can not fully predict the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic and its implications for being in the building can be very overwhelming. As an educator and a parent of two children that are still in public schools, I recognize and appreciate the frustration and anxiety that families are experiencing as we all await fall planning for school.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has asked that all districts prepare three plans for fall learning, with the ability to shift seamlessly between any one of the plans based on the impact of the pandemic in Westport and across the Commonwealth.
- Full reentry to school - All students and staff returning to school with appropriate safety measures being implemented. For this learning model to be accomplished in Westport, our plan would include:
- Minimizing travel of students within building
- Maximizing opportunities for students to stay as a cohort group
- All students/staff wearing masks (the state recommended mask wearing at grade two and above, but our reentry planning team felt it important that everyone within the building wear masks)
- Mask breaks provided throughout the day
- Promoting increased hand washing/sanitizing
- Limiting sharing of materials/resources
- Grab and go (pre-packaged) breakfast/lunches served in the cafeteria
- Physical distancing of at least three feet, with goal of getting to at least six feet between students (three feet from chair to chair in student desk layouts, with all students facing the same direction) - due to class sizes, it is very likely that desks would have to be placed at the three foot distance
- Daily cleaning/sanitizing of school, with extra emphasis on high touch areas (doorknobs, etc)
- Increased use of outdoor learning opportunities
- Professional cleaning of ventilation systems (we are also exploring the purchase of UV technology as an additional measure for our HVAC systems; there is some evidence that this might help mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the air
- Full remote learning - all students learning from home. Please note, learning would be more robust than some students experienced last spring due to our ability to provide training for staff at the end of the summer. Students would receive direct, live instruction from educators. For this learning model to be accomplished in Westport, our plan would include:
- A combination of both direct instruction via the computer and individual student practice time
- Educators will provide students with live lessons (these lessons will be more robust and with greater consistency across the grade-level/content area than families may have experienced in the spring)
- Students will need access to a computer with internet (we have purchased new chromebooks for students in grades 7-12 and are currently exploring the purchase of chromebooks for students in the lower grades… due to the number of schools across the country that are also making similar purchases, technology companies are backlogged with fulfilling all orders). We also can help families that do not have internet access, by providing an internet hotspot.
- Students would be required to log on daily to their classes, attend the live instruction sessions, and complete all assignments. Attendance will be taken daily. All students will be graded.
- A Hybrid model - this model would combine in-person and remote learning, allowing for additional cleaning/sanitation in the buildings and providing increased flexibility to implement more stringent safety measures while students are in school. For this learning model to be accomplished in Westport, our plan would include:
- Students will be placed in two cohort groups (likely by last name / family so that siblings/those living in the same household would be on the same schedule rotation).
- Those assigned to cohort A would attend classes live in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and would be remote leaning the other days.
- Those assigned to cohort B would be remote Monday - Wednesday and in person on Thursday and Friday.
- All students would be remote on Wednesdays to allow the opportunity for additional cleaning between cohort groups.
- On remote days, it is likely that students would watch lessons that are being live-streamed from their teacher’s classes.
- Instruction on remote and in-person days would follow the structure as described above for the remote and in-person models.
- There would be an opportunity for students with more significant learning difficulties (ie. students that are placed in substantially separate classes) to attend school in-person for the live days for both cohorts (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday)
In addition to developing the learning plan, we have also had to adjust our school schedule and determine transportation needs. The state has reduced the student learning year requirements from 180 days to 170 days in order for districts to provide extensive professional development for staff on all three learning models and how to support students during this year. It is anticipated that the first day of school for students will be September 16, 2020.
In terms of bussing, the guidelines and feedback from the state include:
- Only one student per seat
- All students must wear masks on the bus
- All windows will remain down for the duration of the bus ride
- Students will be assigned a seat for the year
- Only one drop off/pick up point can be established for each student (in other words, students will be on the same bus for both drop off and pick up and can not have different routes - ie. to childcare, etc)
We understand that there are challenges associated with each of these models and plans for both our educators and our families. We have not yet identified a definitive plan for the fall. This week, we are asking all families to complete a survey below to help us better understand your learning preference of plans, transportation and other needs. We have also established opportunities this week for families to provide feedback and identify areas of question/concern. These sessions will be more of a ‘listening’ session on our part to hear your thoughts. This will help us refine our draft plan document and prepare a more responsive, thoughtful fall learning plan for Westport.
The listening sessions are scheduled for:
- Monday, August 3rd from 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
- Wednesday, August 5th from 6:30 - 8:00 pm
- Friday, August 7th from 8:00 - 9:30 am
meet.google.com/qkr-vimk-ewh or (US)+1 402-542-0151 PIN: 907 139 995#
- Macomber Students: Monday, August 3rd from 12:00 - 1:30 pm
- Westport Elementary Students: Wednesday, August 5th from 12:00 - 1:30 pm
- WJSHS Students: Friday, August 7th from 12:00 - 1:30 pm
meet.google.com/bwp-xcuy-mjd or (US)+1 575-378-3280 PIN: 409 114 820#
As always, I want to thank families for their patience during these challenging times.
Gary S. Reese, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools