Westport school board cancels April vacation
WESTPORT — The Board of Education voted 6-0 with one abstention to cancel the majority of the scheduled April vacation for schools on Monday.
Interim Superintendent of Schools David Abbey said both the teachers’ union and the administrators’ union strongly believed it was in the best interest of students and the district to not take the spring break.
“I spoke several times with the teachers union’s leadership and they surveyed their members, and what came back was a strong sentiment,” Abbey said during the board’s first virtual meeting via the Zoom application. “Not unanimous, but a strong showing.”
The scheduled vacation days from April 6-9 will instead be used to continue remote learning implemented due to the recent coronavirus outbreak. Schools will remain closed on Good Friday, April 10.
With the newly approved changes, the school year will now end on June 12, Abbey said.
BOE member Vik Muktavaram, who abstained, said he supported plan but was concerned about students who required unique services.
“I get that the entire country is grappling with this and we are not the exception, but there are also a number of school districts that have actually gone down the path of enrichment activities as opposed to online instruction because they did not want to discriminate against that 10 or 15 percent of students for whom online instruction doesn’t work,” Muktavaram said, adding he wondered if this opened the district to a discrimination lawsuit.
He also questioned if the district had confidence it would not reopen before June.
“At this point it does seem that we are going to be out for a prolonged period of time,” Abbey said. “It’s possible we could be out for the entire school year, but we will have to see.”
On Tuesday, Gov. Ned Lamont said schools could be closed for the rest of the academic year.
Abbey noted the district is working to ensure support for students who needed special services.
“We are limited though by not being able to be physically present with them,” he said.
BOE member Elaine Whitney said she supported canceling the scheduled April vacation to maintain the continuity of learning, but noted she would feel different if she had more optimism about a potential trade-off for in-person days if the district kept the vacation.
“I do work for a health system and there’s reason to be cautious,” Whitney said.
Public comment received through a Google Doc largely supported the board’s decision to keep the momentum of remote learning going, but some parents questioned how remote learning would affect the district’s current curriculum.
“I would love to keep the momentum we are slowly gaining with distance learning,” said Sue Hermann, a Spring Hill Road resident. “Since we just had a February break and we can’t go anywhere right now, it seems like we should just keep doing what we are doing.”
BOE member Lee Goldstein said she supported the decision to keep the consistency of remote learning, but noted parents had asked the board not to shift the vacation days to school days.
“For people who feel they need a break or it’s becoming overwhelming, I think people need to pace themselves in the way they always would and make decisions that are the best for your family and your child,” Goldstein said. “But in terms of our school schedule, I think we should keep going.”
The BOE will review the latest results from remote learning at its next virtual meeting on April 2.