Westport Superintendent outlines improvements for return to hybrid model

Children arrive for the first day of school at Coleytown Elementary School. Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020

Children arrive for the first day of school at Coleytown Elementary School. Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020

Scott Mullin / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — With schools expected to return to on-site schooling in a hybrid model on Monday, Superintendent Thomas Scarice outlined some improvements the district would make moving forward.

The district will take a more precise approach to determining close contacts and recommendations for self-quarantine with help from the Westport-Weston Health District and the district’s medical adviser Norman Weinberger, he said.

Instructional support for distance learning and quarantined students will also improve. Scarice said the district has hired multiple certified teachers to provide support and help the students in distance learning or quarantine.

“These resources should be in place to start following the Thanksgiving break,” Scarice said in an email to parents Wednesday.

He said the district has identified nearly 80 COVID-19 cases in the schools since September, which has resulted in nearly 1,500 students and staff being asked to quarantine.

“Yet, there has been little to no spread of COVID-19 once positive cases have been identified in our schools,” he said. “The lack of positive COVID-19 tests of those in quarantine is affirmation of our ability to halt the spread of the virus once it enters our schools.”

Scarice said he will continue to view the school year in four to six week increments as public health experts project high transmission rates until the new year.

“It is critical that parents and those in the community partner with us to maintain the same vigilance that is evident in our schools in order to keep our schools open for on-site schooling,” he said. “An outbreak of the virus, or staffing challenges, can put all of our schools into a fully remote model.”

Parents are still encouraged to transport their children to and from school whenever possible to lower the number of students on school buses and help them spread out more, he said.

Scarice said as challenging as the year has been, and as dark as it is expected to get in the coming weeks, he is more optimistic now than he’s ever been about the future. He noted treatments emerging for those infected, proactive surveillance testing and vaccines in the near future as reasons for his optimism.

“Although I do not expect a ‘war is over’ declaration, I do anticipate that these breakthroughs will conspire with our collective to turn our exclusive attention towards the work of teaching and learning,” he said, “towards the work of preparing all learners for the challenges of the modern world, and towards building a system that enables all students to thrive and make positive contributions to their world.”