Changing COVID guidelines could affect graduations

WESTFIELD – Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski gave a graduation update to the School Committee on May 17 and said changes are expected following the lifting of COVID orders effective May 29.

Czaporowski said the Westfield Technical Academy graduation will be at Bullens Field on June 3, with a rain date of June 10. The Westfield High School graduation is June 4 at Bullens Field, with a rain date of June 11.

Czaporowski said the district had received updates on May 14 as far as COVID restrictions, but he expected them to change given the governor’s May 17 announcement about lifting orders across the state. He said Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has scheduled a call with superintendents on May 19.

“We got updates today, but things may change now,” Czaporowski said. Current restrictions include social distance and six guests per graduate. There will be limited speakers, no band, and the national anthem recorded by the Westfield High School Chorus. Czaporowski said Jay Pagluica will be doing sound. He said, as of May 17, graduates must be three feet apart and have to wear masks, but that could change.

Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. said with the new guidelines from the governor, students shouldn’t have to wear masks outdoors.

School Committee member Bo Sullivan noted that Fenway Park will be open in full on May 29. “The mayor could make that decision if we’re all outside. I think you will have more guidance,” he said. Committee member Cindy Sullivan agreed, saying after the governor spoke, her phone was blowing up with questions about whether that changes how many people can attend.

Czaporowski said he would update the committee as soon as he hears any news.

By the end of the meeting, Czaporowski did receive an update on COVID guidelines regarding mask wearing, classroom materials, cleaning frequency, gathering limits and air conditioning. Effective May 18, students no longer have to wear masks when outdoors, even if distance cannot be maintained. At this time, adults and students must continue to wear masks inside schools.

According to the new guidelines, students can now share classroom materials, and in alignment with state guidance, the gathering limits for school events with outside participants will be lifted starting May 29. Czaporowski said the district is still waiting until the May 19 call with the Commissioner for additional guidance on graduation.

In other school business, at Westfield High School, foreign exchange students — one from the Czech Republic and one from South Korea – were approved by the committee. At the last meeting, a student from Thailand was also approved.

School Committee Vice Chair Timothy O’Connor gave a “shout out” to Leslie Clark-Yvone who arranges for foreign exchange students every year.

Also approved was a new private school, the Full Gospel Christian School, for students in kindergarten through second grade. Denise Ruszala, director of assessment and accountability for Westfield Public Schools, said she had been working with the church for six months on the new school, and everything is in order.

“Their goal is K-2, 15 to 1 teachers to students, starting there and growing in subsequent years. We worked with fire, health, safety, curriculum — all the things that I would go over with all the private schools. They’re on the agenda now because they want to start recruiting,” Ruszala said.

A spokesperson from the church said the school will use the Abeka Christian curriculum for a Christian-based education. She said students will mostly be from Westfield, but there is some interest from students in Connecticut, also.

Also approved was a Westfield Technical Academy senior field trip on May 26 to High Meadows in North Granby, Conn. for the senior picnic, and a  trip to the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn. on May 25.

“It’s finally starting to feel a little bit like normal,” Czaporowski said at the end of the meeting.

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