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Mayor, superintendent talk vaccines, back to school plans and fireworks

Westfield Mayor Donald F. Humason, Jr. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – During his update to the School Committee on July 19, Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. talked about the Big E clinic closing due to the widespread availability of vaccines; the new school building committee moving forward, and plans for fireworks in the fall.

Humason said the clinic at the Big E has closed, as has the one at the Eastfield Mall, now that vaccines are so readily available. “We’d like to encourage people to get vaccinated,” Humason said, adding that he checks in regularly with Baystate Noble, and while the numbers of people hospitalized for COVID are still very low, he doesn’t want to see them grow and have the “powers that be” start cracking down again. He said he and his wife Janice have been vaccinated, and asked others to do the same.

“Vaccines are available now in every pharmacy, doctor’s office, at pop up clinics, and at most places for free. Please take the opportunity which is now readily available to get the vaccine,” Humason said.

Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said the district will have to submit a back to school plan to the state that is prepared for any eventuality. He said there is an uptick nationwide of COVID occurring mostly in unvaccinated people, and the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that when school opens, students that are unvaccinated and 12 and under remain masked, and unvaccinated adults remain masked, which Czaporowski said will be hard to enforce. He said vaccines for students 12 and under may be available by December.

Czaporowski also said that the state Department of Education will issue its guidance in August, and Westfield is currently working on a plan that is prepared for any scenario. He said the district is preparing to return fully in person on Aug. 30, but will also be prepared to go hybrid or fully remote if COVID doesn’t go away. He said parents, students and staff will be updated as soon as the district receives more information. “We have to be prepared for any event,” he said.

Humason said the school building committee will be moving forward through the summer in a process that is going very well. He said he was happy that the city finally owns the two buildings on Franklin Street, which makes the school parcel cleaner and more wide open.

Earlier in the meeting, the School Committee acted on a request by the Fire Department to use the two school-owned homes at 129 and 131 Franklin Street, which are going to be torn down, for non-destructive training.

Czaporowski said that Chief Patrick Egloff reached out to him about whether they could use the houses for training before they are razed. Czaporowski said if it assists the Fire Department in training for potential disasters, he is in support of the idea which has been cleared by the city.

“We don’t often have an opportunity like this to help the Fire Department with real help for live training,” said School Committee Vice Chair Timothy O’Connor before the unanimous vote in favor of allowing the training.

Humason also talked about his plans to host fireworks. He said in the spring, due to COVID, the governor was not expected to release restrictions for large gatherings until Aug. 2, but he did so in May, which gave some cities and towns the opportunity to host large gatherings. He said Westfield decided to hold off on fireworks.

Humason said the city now plans to partner with Westfield on Weekends and have the fireworks in the fall as part of the PumpkinFest activities. He said the location is still up in the air, mainly due to the construction of the Boys & Girls Club expansion, which is expected to be completed by then. He is hoping the fire marshal will approve the site behind the Club and Westfield Middle School for fireworks, but they will have the Westfield High School as an alternative site.

Humason said the benefits to holding the fireworks in the fall is they will be cheaper, and they can start at 8:30 p.m. as opposed to 9:30 p.m. which he said is better for everyone. He said the city will announce the date and location as soon as the plans are set.

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