WESTFIELD – Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski sent a letter to families on Aug 24 alerting them to the back-to-school plan now posted on the school website at www.schoolsofwestfield.org.
Czaporowski said the document provides important information for the start of the school year, including food service procedures and transportation protocols. “I encourage all families to review this information before school starts next week,” he wrote.
Czaporowski also expressed regret that due to the ongoing pandemic, school districts across the nation are reopening under challenging conditions again this school year.
He said after the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released its school year guidance on Aug. 13, the district worked with members of the City of Westfield Health Department to create a specific back to school plan for the 2021-2022 school year
The document also reflects the updated mandate issued by DESE on. Aug. 24 that requires masks for all public K-12 students, educators, and staff through October 1 “to ensure schools fully reopen safely and to provide time for more students and educators to get vaccinated.”
After Oct. 1, the commissioner’s policy would allow middle and high schools to lift the mask mandate for vaccinated students and staff only if the school meets a certain vaccination rate – at least 80 percent of students and staff in a school building are vaccinated. Unvaccinated students and staff would still be required to wear masks.
At the School Committee meeting on Aug. 23, Czaporowski said he didn’t think the 80 percent vaccination rate was realistic. “I think it’s high,” he told the committee.
When asked after the meeting what is the current vaccination rate in Westfield schools, Czaporowski said as of Aug. 23 the district was at 44 percent for 12 to15 year-olds and 36 percent for 16-19 year-olds, compared to the state average of 63 percent and 67 percent respectively. He also said the district did not have staff vaccination rates at this time.
A vaccination clinic open to the public 12 years and older was conducted at Westfield High School on Aug. 26, which may impact Westfield’s vaccination rate.
Czaporowski also noted in his letter that under current conditions, a lot can change in a short period of time. “Flexibility is needed throughout the school year as we adjust to the continued impact of COVID-19 on our region and community,” he said.
Westfield Public School students in grades 1-12 will start school on Aug. 30. Preschool, Kindergarten and Transition Services students will start school on Sept. 7. All students will begin the school year in person, unless enrolled in the K-8 Virtual School.
“This school year, our priorities remain the same; we will focus on the health and safety of our students and staff and our commitment to our district core values. We thank you in advance for your continued partnership and understanding as we continue to navigate the upcoming school year,” Czaporowski said in the letter.
“We are very much looking forward to the return of our students,” he added.