Schools, businesses work together despite COVID limitations

WESTFIELD – The Westfield Education to Business Alliance (WE2BA) met virtually in the early morning on Jan. 26 with several dozen Westfield educators and business leaders to discuss ways to continue working together to provide opportunities for Westfield students despite COVID limitations.

English Language Supervisor Mary Keane spoke about several Adopt a Classroom projects that were done as virtual tours, giving students the opportunity to enter areas they would not have been able to access in person.

Wright Flight president Mike Gutowski said his experience with remote sixth grade classes virtually touring Barnes Airport was a great opportunity and demonstrated to him how interested students are in aviation. The students met Airport Manager Chris Willendor and heard how he got involved in aviation; took a virtual tour of a flight simulator, and “walked” over with Gutowski to Hangar 2 to meet with Galen Wilson and the Westfield Tech aviation students.

Gutowski said he received thank you emails from each of the students. Next week, he will be doing another virtual tour with the 250 sixth graders who didn’t attend the first one. He said one advantage of a virtual tour is “there was no way we could have 250 kids go through the airport and hangar.”

Science and Technology Supervisor Lauren Figy talked about another upcoming Adopt a Classroom partnership with the Amelia Park Children’s Museum. Remote Franklin Avenue and Highland elementary schools’ first grade students and their teacher Megan Hysler will spend one session virtually touring the space exhibit at the museum and the next building their own straw rockets with materials provided by the museum. Figy said she is excited that the students who are all remote can do a virtual field trip. The museum has also provided tickets to each of the students to visit in person.

Jonah Badiab of the MassHIre Career Center in Westfield High School said they are continuing to offer resume and job search services to students. He said he is also coordinating with military partners to help students take the ASVAB exam.

There are paid teaching internships, funded by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education available for students who have demonstrated an interest in teaching at two of the elementary schools in town, Badiab said.

Badiab said the Career Center is starting to look for summer internships in Westfield, and asked businesses who may be interested to contact him. In a collaboration with YouthWorks, students who are income eligible will also be able to get paid internships to work on job readiness skills.

WTA Career Technical educator Peter Taloumis said the cooperative education program at WTA is doing well, with 45 seniors out on co-ops in local businesses, and five on internships. He said another four or five are ready to go out on placements.

One COVID-related opportunity came along through Baystate Health with students assisting from home on telemedicine work, Taloumis said.

Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said that COVID closures are limiting opportunities somewhat, but the district is interested in working with any business who would like to work with their students, and said any businesses with ideas may email him at [email protected]

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