Photo by Natasha Taubenheim ’22
All Westport elementary and middle school students were given the option to fully return to school as of Feb. 3. While some chose to stay remote, most made the decision to go back and conclude their distance learning experience.
There has been speculation that Staples will similarly return full-time in the near future, although there isn’t a definite date set. The Board of Education just recently approved a 75% hybrid model, which will begin in early March. Many teachers and staff believe that the current hybrid model has been working fine and that going back full time would be unnecessary and detrimental.
“Personally, I do not think we should be going back full time,” English teacher Brendan Giolitto said. “The mitigating strategies we’ve put in place for hybrid learning seem to work and I am worried that adding students will compromise those strategies.”
Some of the mitigating strategies include one-way hallways, limits of people that can sit at the lunch tables, and desks spread at least three feet apart. Both the 75% hybrid model and a full-time return to school would result in more students in the building and less room to social distance.
“I am worried about classrooms, hallways, and the cafeteria being too crowded, especially as new COVID-19 variants seem to be more transmissible,” Giolitto said.
Despite there being more students in the building starting in March, teachers aren’t planning on changing their learning environment.
“Ultimately, instruction would probably stay the same since there would still be distance learners,” Giolitto said.
Having both cohorts return to school has been the goal for quite some time, which is why the district has been taking steps to ensure that there are no new outbreaks.
“I reiterate that my goal is to have all students in school as much as possible,” Superintendent Thomas Scarice wrote to the district in a November email.
There are two concepts to consider as the district decides on how many students to bring back into the buildings: providing the best education and providing the safest environment for students and teachers.
“I would say that there are too many issues impacting so many different groups to have a one size fits all approach at this time,” social studies teacher Jonathan Shepro said. “I would also say that educating kids in a remote environment is less than ideal.”