WESTPORT — Superintendent Thomas Scarice showed early support for a hybrid model of reopening, despite speaking to the importance of returning to full in-person learning if it can be done safely.

“I certainly am on record saying that I believe kids need this, but certainly not at the expense of the health, safety and welfare of our staff, our faculty, administrators, our support staff and obviously our children,” Scarice said at a school board meeting Monday. “We have to make a decision that’s in the best interest.”

The town faces a unique task with its two middle schools set to be combine for an early portion of the school year. Scarice said he struggled to see anything other than a hybrid model at the secondary level, and was open to revisiting the hybrid model at the elementary level.

“I would make a case that it’s a real challenge at the elementary level and we have to be open to different models there as much as, I will say it again, I think it’s so critical to have those kids there on a regular basis,” he said.

Scarice said final plans are expected to be released to the public by Aug. 15.

Last week, Gov. Ned Lamont said the state would not dictate how instruction will be offered, leaving local school districts to choose a model of their choice.

The state has also released metrics for district’s reopening plans based on a low, moderate, or high risk category. Less than 10 new COVID cases a week is considered low, 10 to 25 is considered moderate and favors a hybrid model, and more than 25 cases a week would push districts to favor a fully remote model.

Suzanne Levasseur, district supervisor of health services, said further guidance from the state involving how districts handle specific COVID cases also should be released within the week.

“It’s a well thought out document based on the CDC and it’s a lot of the things that we have been struggling with in putting together,” Levasseur said. “It’s going to be very concrete guidance.”

The BOE also unanimously approved emergency purchasing power for Scarice and Elio Longo, the schools chief financial officer, for personal protective equipment in preparation for the fall. The decision authorizes up to $250,000 through September.

Scarice said he had more than 100 emails from parents that was relatively split, but had slightly more leaning towards being cautious.

“My point is not to count them and come up with a number,” he said. “My point is to illustrate this is going to be a very divisive issue.”

Scarice said it’s critically important at the leadership level to help nurture the culture of the school community as they continue to discuss reopening.

“There’s a lot of fear, as I’ve mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and this is going to be incredibly challenging,” he said. “We need to do our best to maintain our decision making pathways based on public health data and erring on the side of caution when we need to.”

He said it’s important to not forget the importance of children needing to be among their peers, with their teachers and building relationships.

“There are windows of time we have to capitalize and if we don’t, there are long-term effects, yet we are in a pandemic,” Scarice said. “How we do this as leaders of the community...It’s going to be critically important to nurture that culture going forward.”