WESTFIELD – Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said Dec. 17 after meeting with Public Health Director Joseph Rouse and members of the School Committee that beginning Dec. 18, all schools will switch to fully remote learning through Jan. 19.
A rise in COVID-19 cases in the schools and concerns about the holiday break sparked the decision.
Czaporowski said since Dec. 3, there have been 21 new cases between several city schools, and there are 100 people who now have to quarantine. Westfield HIgh School had already switched to full remote learning due to cases there, which allowed time to do the contact tracing and follow up. There were also cases at Westfield Middle School.
“Once I got the information from the nurses, there were too many people in quarantine, and we don’t really know if we reached them all,” he said.
As a result, all the schools, including Westfield Technical Academy tech classes, will go remote beginning Friday, Dec. 18. “Unfortunately, tech shops have to go remote as well, because the positive cases and all those who have to go into quarantine have siblings across the district, affecting the whole district,” the superintendent said.
“It’s just been very difficult. I can’t have a widespread event. We’ve been getting one school here and there, but this time it’s multiple schools at the same time,” Czaporowski said.
Czaporowski said Rouse also expressed concern about the two weeks following Christmas, because it became evident that over Thanksgiving people didn’t follow guidelines and warnings, and there’s an expectation that may also happen over the upcoming holiday break. “Two weeks will give us time to see what that will look like,” he said, adding that custodians will also have an opportunity to deep clean all of the schools again during that time.
“I’m very disappointed, I was proud of the work we were doing. We were one of the last districts still open in the area. We know our kids need to be in school,” Czaporowski said.
Remote learning will continue until the holiday recess, which begins on Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, and will resume on Jan. 4.
The expectation is to restart in school learning in Phase 3 of the rollout on Jan. 19, where the district had been up until two days ago. Czaporowski said the School Committee meets next on Jan. 4, at which time another update from Public Health will be taken under consideration.
Czaporowski said most important for everyone is to follow CDC guidelines.
“The one thing I would urge folks is to follow CDC guidelines. Do not send sick kids to school, wash your hands, wear a mask and physically distance yourself. It was those practices that allowed us to stay open as long as we were able to, and we were doing so well for so long. But it’s not worth putting people at risk, staff or students or anyone. Our hope and expectation is that we’ll have a fresh start on January 19,” he said.