Westport school board considers groundwork for re-opening
WESTPORT — As state officials begin early talks of how to re-open the state, the Board of Education has begun laying the groundwork of what reopening means for the school district.
“I believe that this is the most urgent and important work before this board going forward,” BOE Chair Candice Savin said on Monday. “Having our students back in school is the fondest desire I know of everyone in town.”
While state-led organizations may deliver guidance to municipalities, Savin said she expected a lot of guidance to be locally determined.
“We need to figure out what works best for Westport, and our community and our expectations,” she said.
Savin said factors that needed to be reviewed include health and safety protocols, potential educational remediation for ground lost during the school closure and planning for a resurgence of the virus.
But BOE member Lee Goldstein said she was hesitant to made decisions on topics real experts were still questioning. Goldstein said when schools are re-opened will be within the context laid out at that time.
“I imagine there are going to be protocols that are going to be demanded of the schools and we’ll do that,” she said.
BOE member Elaine Whitney said the school board should do as much planning as it can to handle potential problems.
“I’d certainly reiterate the concept of ensuring an exceptional distance learning program is really critical,” she said.
Interim Superintendent David Abbey said the administration would look to implement a committee to handle the re-opening.
“We would need to define who’s part of that committee and it would certainly need to be more broad-based than administrators,” he said.
The committee could be composed of parents, members of the community, school officials and health officials, he said.
If implemented, Abbey said, the committee would discuss how to ensure school staff and students are healthy as well as make preparations if the distance learning program has to be continued. He said the committee would also look to see how the current school structure has affected students.
“I was thinking if the board wants us to move forward with some of these ideas, to come to the next meeting with a broad framework in terms of what a committee may look like, and what some of the essential questions may look like,” Abbey said.
John Bayers, human resources director for the district, said he serves on the town’s emergency operations team and conversations are also ongoing about how to re-open the town.
“I don’t see our two sides having to work separately. It really has to be linked together,” Bayers said. “My recommendation is it needs to go in both directions because it’s no way we can operate in isolation.”