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Westport Community Schools Shares 2020-21 Academic Year Reopening Plans

Students Will Begin School Sept. 16 with Mix of Remote, Hybrid and In-Person Learning

WESTPORT — Superintendent Gary Reese announces that the Westport Community Schools will follow a combination of remote, hybrid and in-person learning this fall for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The Westport School Committee voted in favor of the plan at its Wednesday, Aug. 26 meeting.

The plan calls for pre-K/pre-school, kindergarten and first grade students at the Alice A. Macomber Primary School to begin school fully in-person when school begins on Wednesday, Sept.16.

Due to smaller classroom sizes and larger enrollment numbers, second grade students at the school will follow a hybrid model where students are put into two groups (Cohort A and B) and will be in school two days a week and remote three days a week, on the following schedule:

Cohort A

In-person: Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Remote: Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays

Cohort B

In-person: Thursdays and Fridays
Remote: Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays

“It is critical for our younger students to receive direct, in-person instruction from their teachers, and we have worked out a plan that allows us to provide a learning environment that both emphasizes the safety of our students and staff while also maximizing the quality of learning each student will receive,” Superintendent Reese said.

The district will be sending home surveys this week for any parent or guardian who wishes to keep their pre-K/pre-school, kindergarten or first grade student at home for full remote learning.

To view the Macomber Primary School’s return-to-school plan, click here.

Students at the Westport Elementary School and Westport Jr./Sr. High School will engage in full remote learning when the school year begins, with teachers being in their respective buildings five days a week.

Click here to view the district’s back-to-school reentry plan, which includes details on sample remote learning schedules, student and parent expectations and additional information on how the remote learning model will work when the school year begins.

The district is still awaiting delivery of resources to aid in-person education, such as technology equipment and personal protective equipment, which prompted the district to opt for the remote learning model for older students.

The plan is being described as a “delayed-hybrid” model, indicating the district’s desire to return to hybrid and eventually full in-person education as soon as possible.

“Our school buildings are absolutely safe, and we would not be asking teachers or younger students to enter the buildings if we felt otherwise,” Superintendent Reese said. “However, at this time we do not feel we have received enough resources to properly accommodate groups of teachers and students at the elementary, junior high or high school level. Our number one goal is to get all students and staff back into their buildings, but only when it is safe to do so based on local Board of Health and state Department of Health guidelines and recommendations.”

The district’s plans are designed to be as flexible as possible, depending on the latest health data. Under the direction of the Town’s health department and daily monitoring of the community’s number of COVID-19 cases, as well as receipt of additional resources, the district will decide when it is safe to shift to a hybrid model.

Remote Learning Resources
Chromebooks have been ordered for all students in the district to help support remote learning. The initial order was placed in May and has not yet been received. A subsequent order was placed at the beginning of August, and the district is expecting that shipment by mid-September.

If there is a need for a student to use a Chromebook device before receiving the new devices, the district will work with those families to ensure access to the appropriate technology (as was done last year).

There are several texts used in the district with online licenses so that students can access the textbook on a computer. Access to online textbooks will continue to be increased in the coming weeks and months.

School Reopening Preparations
The Westport Community Schools has been active over the summer to prepare for eventually reopening school buildings to all students. The Westport Public Schools Fall Reentry Subcommittee, made up of teachers, educators, facilities department, nurses, parents and students, has been meeting regularly during the summer. The committee will continue to meet monthly to assess the district’s readiness to begin the hybrid model.

Desk shields have been ordered for each student and staff member. These clear shields are three-sided and are placed on the student’s desk as a further layer of protection. These shields weigh less than a pound and are foldable so that students can take them between classes (if they travel between classes). When in class, students will still need to wear masks even when using these shields.

The district has also ordered HEPA air purifiers for all classrooms. These will be installed on a rolling basis, starting with classrooms at the Macomber Primary School.

Additionally, the district’s Facilities Department and custodial staff not only cleaned and disinfected school buildings in accordance with their regular summer cleaning routine but also added extra cleaning procedures based on COVID-19 prevention guidelines.

The custodial staff has also installed additional cleaning/sanitization products in classrooms and other areas of the school, such as hand sanitizers and glove storage stations.

Electrostatic sprayers have been ordered for availability throughout the day. These will be used daily by custodians as part of their end-of-day cleaning routine and throughout the day by custodians and staff in classrooms and throughout the school (particularly in high touch areas of the buildings).

The district has also consulted with UMass Dartmouth Associate Professor of Biology Erin Bromage — a COVID-19 expert and Westport resident — on ways to improve air quality in school buildings.

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