Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said the meeting was originally scheduled for Aug. 4 but was postponed at the last minute due to a loss of power at the Tech Center and in the homes of School Committee members.
Czaporowski said the School Committee will review and vote on the draft plan being submitted to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offering complete remote learning and a hybrid model through a phased-in approach.
“The plan isn’t final, it’s going to be tweaked from now until school starts,” he said. School for students will start on Sept. 14 or 15, after 10 days of staff training.
One of the directives from DESE was to create a specific plan for students considered with high needs. In Westfield, that includes some students receiving special education services, some beginning English language learners, and students that are homeless, numbering 80 at the end of the school year. These are the students that the district wants to bring in every day during phase one of the hybrid model, according to Czaporowski.
The district also wants to bring back the shops at Westfield Technical Academy in phase one. “We believe there is space in all the shops to maintain physical distancing, and we think it’s difficult to learn a trade remotely,” he said. Academics at WTA would initially be taught remotely. Czaporowski said when the shops are in, that’s half the school.
Czaporowski said the district is still undecided about kindergarten, whether to bring in those students during phase one or phase two.
Every phase would last two to three weeks before going to the next phase in consultation with the Westfield Board of Health, he said. He added that the entire plan will be contingent upon ongoing negotiations with labor unions because the plan changes working conditions.
Phase two of the hybrid model will bring back the transition grades — students that are starting in a new building. These include students in first, fifth seventh and ninth grades.
In Phase three, all students would be brought back in a hybrid model, one week remote and one week in person. From the surveys, parents did not support two weeks in and two weeks out; they preferred one week, Czaporowski said.
“Very soon, we’ll be asking parents to commit to either the full remote or hybrid model. For the hybrid model, we are putting together groups that would have siblings coming to school on the same weeks as much as possible,” Czaporowski said.
In terms of remote learning centers, the district is actively pursuing partnerships with the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club, and is sending out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for space that they can rent.
These locations would be used to provide a place for the children of staff, and remote learning centers for students who need extra support or who are in need of a learning space during the remote weeks. “We’re still working out staffing needs for those remote weeks,” Czaporowski said.
“In terms of transportation, people have to understand that we can only use our buses at one-third capacity, which will limit the amount of transportation that the district can offer. If parents can drive their children to school, that will alleviate the pressure on the transportation department. Right now, we’re being told one student per seat, although siblings can sit together on the bus,” Czaporowski said.
Asked what kind of feedback the district is receiving from parents, the superintendent said that some families want the district to reopen fully; and there are an increasing number of families that want to go strictly remote next year. Czaporowski said he expects that number to grow, given what’s happening across the country.
“It’s not helping when you see these schools that have opened and have shut down already because of outbreaks,” Czaporowski said. He said Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston are starting completely with remote learning. He said in the next few weeks, other districts will be deciding on whether to start fully remote. At this time, Westfield is going with hybrid and remote options, he said.
Czaporowski said parents who have questions and concerns may email them to [email protected].
Monday’s Special School Committee meeting will start with public participation. If anyone wants to send in a comment, they should email [email protected]. Name and address must be included with the email in order to be entered into the record of the meeting.