Enrollment survey helps district complete planning for return to school

Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski

WESTFIELD – Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said this week that 5,066 students out of a total of 5,285 in the school district have responded to an enrollment verification form sent out last week.

Among other information requested, the form indicates whether the student will be participating in hybrid or fully remote learning during the school year. Czaporowski said that 72 percent, or 3,636 students plan to participate in the hybrid model; while 28%, or 1,403 students, have opted for fully remote learning.

School principals and secretaries will be calling the remaining students and families in the next week and a half to see which model they prefer. If no one can be reached, the students will be automatically enrolled in the hybrid model. All students, with the exception of those in the tech shops at Westfield Technical Academy, will begin remotely when school starts on Sept. 14.

In response to another question on the survey, an additional 1,600 chromebooks have been requested by families. Czaporowski said the district has 700 chromebooks ready to go, another 500 to 600 in the building, and another 1,000 chromebooks on backorder due to the high demand statewide.. “We will have enough, and we’re hoping that we will have them by when school starts,” he said.

Twenty-two percent of families, or 736, said they would be participating in the grab & go meal program during their student’s remote learning times. Czaporowski said they are still deciding how that will look. The district recently announced that the current grab & go meals at Abner Gibbs and Westfield Middle School will be extended until Sept. 11.

Another question on the survey asked whether students would be using school bus transportation when the in-person learning portion begins. He said the district has just completed a list of the A and B cohorts of students, which is needed to plan the bus schedules.

Czaporowski said the survey responses will guide the rest of the planning for the start of school moving forward, which is a district-wide effort. “We’re going to have to use some strategy to put this together,” he said.

For one, Westfield is the only area school that he’s heard of which will be on the one week in person and one week remote learning model, as opposed to two days in person and two days remote model of many area schools. Czaporowski said this way, over a two week period, Westfield students will be in school five days, as opposed to four in many other districts. One reason Westfield is able to have the extra day is that the district will be deep cleaning the schools every night, he said.

Westfield is also the only school he is aware of that is keeping students in the same family in the same cohort, or on the same schedule. Czaporowski said this work to keep siblings together is being done manually, as opposed to students in a cohort being selected by computer, so it is taking longer.

“It’s going to take some time, but we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work diligently toward the opening of school on Monday, Sept. 14,” Czaporowski said.

One of the biggest challenges the district is facing so far is transportation, and being limited to the number of students per bus. Another is knowing when to move through the phases to bring the next group of students back. The School Committee recently voted to put this item on the agenda at every meeting, which Board of Health Director Joseph Rouse said he will attend in order to provide the latest information before moving through each phase.

“We’re optimistic. We’re excited to welcome our students back to school, remotely, in person and eventually all in person. We’re going to make the best of this year given our circumstances,” Czaporowski said.

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