WESTFIELD -Pahse 3 of in-person learning in Westfield Public Schools has begun.
Nov. 2 was the first day of Phase 3, in-person school for students grades 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, and 12 in the A Cohort. Next Monday, Nov 9, students in the B Cohort will start in school learning every other week.
Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said the first day went well, with the usual few transportation glitches. Transportation director Pamela Kotarski is currently finalizing the B Cohort schedule, with letters to go out this week. He said if parents don’t receive a letter by Friday, they should call the transportation office at 413 572-6599.
Czaporowski said by next week, all students who signed up for the hybrid program will have begun in school learning. Thirty percent of families in Westfield made the choice to go full remote. He said he is confident about the return to school for the students, as the schools are very clean, and the maintenance plan is working
“If everyone is following physical distancing, washing their hands and wearing their masks, we know that lowers the spread possibilities,” Czaporowski said.
Also on Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced in a press conference that he is committed to having schools remain open, despite rollbacks on the size of certain group gatherings due to increasing COVID numbers in Massachusetts.
“Schools, compared to the rest of society, are doing pretty well. Schools are following all the guidelines and not getting complacent. When we have our kids in school, we have to follow all the recommendations. Their safety and that of our staff is and always will be top priority,” Czaporowski said.
Czaporowski said when cases do come up, they will be taking it on a school-by-school basis. If there is an outbreak at one school, it may be necessary to pivot to remote learning for two weeks at that school, but that doesn’t mean they would close the district. To date, three individuals have tested positive in three different schools since the start of school, but there has been no spread of the illness from these cases.
“We know the kids do better in person learning. A kindergarten student said to me and Susan (Dargie) on a recent visit that `human school is so much better than computer school.’ We know the kids benefit from social education, which in itself is part of the educational process,” Czaporowski said.
Monday was also the start of a remote learning site for the children of Westfield Public School teachers at the First Congregational Church. Czaporowski said they are offering the program free of charge, in order to have more teachers be able to come back in person. The site is for staff whose children are in districts that are fully remote or hybrid, or in Westfield during their children’s remote weeks
The First Congregational Church is offering three floors, eight classrooms and a cafeteria area for use during the week. Westfield Gas & Electric installed Whip City Fiber in the church for the program at no cost. The district has also hired five remote learning tutors with experience in the field of education.
“Right now, there are seven kids enrolled. Today (Monday) was just the first day. We’re going to be opening it up to support staff and administration, once our numbers get consistent. We’re providing that to our staff so they can come to work; and we are the only district in the area that is doing that,” Czaporowski said.
He said they are also the only district providing remote learning centers at the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA for families on weeks that students are not in school. “It’s Important for us to recognize the needs of our staff and families, and it’s the right thing to do for Westfield.”
Czaporowski said the remote learning program which is being paid for by CARES Act funds, is free of charge until Dec. 30 when the grant runs out. “We would like to be able to continue the program after the new year, if additional stimulus monies from the CARES Act are received,” he said.
“I am proud of how we’ve done. I’m proud of the students and pleased with the staff. Now we’re at the next phase and everybody’s back. We’ve gone as far as we can until there is a cure or vaccine,” Czaporowski said.