Westport schools choose hybrid model for beginning of school year
WESTPORT — The district will re-open in a hybrid model in the fall with the chance of a shift later.
Superintendent Thomas Scarice said the community and nation was currently enveloped in fear about reopening schools during the pandemic. He said metrics from the state have shown students can return to schools, but noted the decision on which reopening model Westport favored was not simply data driven.
“It’s not that simple and it’s for that reason that I’m recommending to the board that we open our schools in a hybrid model to start the school year off in September,” Scarice said at a school board meeting Thursday.
At Staples High School, students will be split into two groups alphabetically with one attending in-person on Monday and Tuesday, and the other on Thursday and Friday. The groups would spend their alternating days distance learning if they’re not physically in class.
Similarly, students at the middle school level will be split into two groups alphabetically, with a group attending either Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Friday. On days students are not physically in class they will learn remotely.
Students at both levels will participate in remote learning on Wednesday.
Elementary students will be split alphabetically into a morning group and an afternoon group with students expected to switch groups halfway through the school year. Every other Wednesday students will work remotely.
Families will still have the option to choose a full distance learning model.
Parents sent in a number of emails with some questioning the grouping of students, or asking the groups be switched halfway through the year for equity.
Jeffrey Benner, a Westport resident, asked if there was a way for remote-only students to participate in orientation during the first four days of school.
“I’m concerned they will feel left out from the start of school if there’s no way for them to participate in the orientation remotely,” he said.
Phyllis Wallitt, a Westport resident, said she did not understand why a child in middle school may not attend school in-person the same day of the week as their sibling in high school.
“This is a big strain for working parents and working moms in particular,” she said. “It’s also a big strain for any teachers that live in Westport that have children.”
Scarice said the district tried to stay true to what’s best for students at each particular level while prioritizing health and safety. But divisiveness surrounding educators and the decisions in recent times was concerning, he said.
“It does concern me that there’s a national tone about education and educators in particular that I really take issue with and it’s unfair,” he said. “I really believe that this is a moment for public education to shine, but I also believe that the folks who are delivering that moment — all they’re asking for is the appropriate support to do that.”
Scarice said the district will have to rely on great judgment, wisdom and the expertise in their system to successfully open during a global pandemic.
“We have never faced this before, but I do believe that we’re in a much better place than we have been as we evolve towards getting ready,” he said.