Westport's K-8 students might fully return next month

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 mitigating measures showing some success, school officials will begin reviewing plans for a possible return to in-person learning for younger students after winter break.

“We will begin the New Year in the current hybrid model beginning on Jan. 4,” Scarice said in an email to parents Wednesday. “However, we will monitor the conditions around us, and within our schools, in an effort to begin to possibly open our schools for full on-site instruction at the K-8 level later in the month.”

He said officials will also look to broaden access to Staples for more on-site instruction for all learners, beyond those identified as at-risk.

Administration from all three levels have been asked to prepare plans for review by the end of the first week of January, which could be implemented in the second half of the month, he said.

“Given the performance of public schools across the state, and here in Westport, I am confident that our resilience will continue to maintain high levels of safety for staff and students,” Scarice said.

He said while he stands by his prudent approach recommended in the fall, officials have continued to learn more about schooling during the pandemic.

Scarice said population density is a factor in mitigating spread, thus the reason for hybrid models this year. But ample evidence has shown minimal to no virus spread in schools with greater population density than the current levels in Westport schools, he said.

The schools’ resilience, along with the timing of Coleytown Middle School reopening, and the need to balance public health with social, emotional, and academic wellness of students led him to start conversations on additional reopening efforts, he said.

“It is clear with strong mitigating measures, particularly fidelity to mask wearing, schools can remain resilient while serving more on-site learners safely,” Scarice said. “When we return, we will begin the process of planning for more on-site learners in earnest for the second half of the school year which begins later in January.”

Parents will also continue to be afforded the right to distance learning for children, he said.

“We will continue to serve our students in this arena and seek to continually improve our practices in remote instruction,” Scarice said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com