Westport school board plans half-day program for remote learning elementary students
WESTPORT — With school set to open next week, the district’s administration presented the latest changes to accommodate students including deciding that distance learning elementary students will follow a half-day schedule.
“One of the reasons that was on hold was that we were getting information, or obtaining information, from families about how many students would be opting in to the distance learning program,” Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of learning, said at a school board meeting Monday. “Once we got that information, we moved relatively quickly to find a resolution.”
Following a half-day schedule for the remote learning program would ensure the pacing matches instruction in the hybrid model, he said.
The hybrid model for elementary students will split them into two groups separated alphabetically by last name, with one attending morning sessions and the other afternoon sessions. The sessions would rotate each quarter point of the year, according to the district’s website.
“In the event a student transitions from the distance learning plan to a hybrid plan, they would be at the same point in the curriculum and it would make for a smooth transition,” Buono said.
Around 200 students have signed up for remote learning at the elementary level, according to Buono, with nearly 500 signed up across the district.
Superintendent Thomas Scarice said the Westport-Weston YMCA will provide an early morning program for students participating in afternoon sessions and vice-versa. The program could help address some of the concerns with the hybrid model in the community, he said.
“I think, in fairness, working families with two working parents in town have spoken pretty loudly — on the record and off the record — that this is going to be a real challenge for them,” he said. “The Y really stepped up here.”
The Board of Education also reviewed ventilation in the schools and health protocols for the school year.
Sue Levasseur, the district’s health services supervisor, said the state has also released more guidance on how the district will tackle exposures or positive cases. The guidance covered scenarios ranging from cases reported within one classroom, to two or more cases within 14 days linked to exposure outside the school.
“The recommendation is always to determine the close contacts,” Levasseur said. “The health department and we would determine that, and those close contacts would be excluded for 14 days.”
For a scenario where multiple cases are being reported across different cohorts, the district could consider closing for 14 days, she said.
“The great part of all this is the consideration,” Levasseur said. “We need to think about the considerations when we make the determinations, and that makes things not black and white.”