Westport schools relax COVID mitigation measures

Students arrive for the first day of classes at Coleytown Middle School, in Westport, Conn. Aug. 31, 2021.

Students arrive for the first day of classes at Coleytown Middle School, in Westport, Conn. Aug. 31, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Westport Public Schools have updated their COVID-19 mitigating measures, including giving teachers the option to teach their classes unmasked.

The updates to the COVID-19 protocols come after students were back in school for six weeks. Superintendent Thomas Scarice said that at the beginning of the year, he informed the school community that they will revisit the school’s COVID-19 mitigating measures every four to six weeks.

“I could not predict the longevity of any of the mitigating measures beyond a four-to-six week time frame,” Scarice said. “Now that we are six weeks into the year, and we are currently experiencing a continued drop in COVID positive cases, I want to update the school community on some changes to our COVID mitigation measures.”

The first update to the mitigating measures is that, as of Wednesday, teachers can now deliver instruction unmasked. Scarice said the Connecticut Department of Public Health permitted school districts to give the option to teachers to teach unmasked if they are vaccinated, standing at the front of the room and all students are sitting and unmasked.

Westport chose not to implement this provision at the start of the year, but is now giving the option to teachers in grades seven through 12. Teachers for kindergarten through sixth grade will be considered after Nov. 1, Scarice said, when the district has a better handle on vaccinations for students between the ages of 5 through 11.

“This is an option for teachers and not a requirement,” Scarice said.

Larger groups of visitors will be permitted to meet in person within the schools with building administration permission, as long as the visitors can socially distance and are masked with proof of vaccination. Visitors will still have to show proof of vaccination though through at least Dec. 31. District officials will reassess the requirement then.

Another update allows lunch tents at the elementary level to remain in place for the remainder of the month.

“We will revisit lunch practices when we better understand the K-6 vaccinations at the end of the month,” Scarice said. “The lunch supervision at the elementary levels is very challenging and we will move as quickly as we can to return to normal lunch provided our transmission rates continue to drop.”

Westport now allows elementary parent, teacher conferences to be in person for vaccinated parents. If unvaccinated, parents will have to attend the conference virtually.

Mitigation measures for the performances scheduled over the next couple of months will be determined based on the COVID transmission rates at that time with the health district, Scarice said.

The latest update also addressed building rentals.

“We are open for building, space rental from community groups after hours,” Scarice said. “We will continue to recommend universal masking, however, these are outside events and we do not have the capacity to enforce our measures outside of school hours.”

The district is also considering field trips.

“Some field trips have been approved so far this year, particularly those outside,” Scarice added. “However, we will begin to review field trip requests pending the continued low transmission rates.”

As of Wednesday, Westport’s average positivity rate was at 14 cases per 100,000 people.