Photo by Jack Dennison ’21
The Westport Board of Education (BOE) returned to in-person meetings at Staples High School on June 7 for the first time since before the pandemic began in March of 2020. This announcement comes as Connecticut fully reopens and COVID-19 vaccine rates continue to stay high and increase, along with many of the previous restrictions now lifted.
While abiding by mask and three feet social distancing guidelines, board members and attendees can come and spectate these meetings live.
“With [COVID-19] transmission rates down, vaccination rates up and most pandemic-related restrictions having been lifted, we are pleased that we are able to resume meeting in person with mitigation measures in place, and we welcome the public to join us,” the board members said in a letter.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, all meetings were held over Zoom, rather than the traditional in-person meetings. However, board members and town officials feel that it is time to return, due to the lowered transmission numbers.
“The Board of Education, like all elected and appointed boards who hold regular public meetings, have wanted to return to in-person meetings as soon as possible,” John Bayer, Director of Human Resources for Westport Public Schools, said. “Ms. Savin, the Board of Education Chair, and I have been in regular communication throughout the pandemic about our town’s collective approach to public meetings. Therefore, I am excited that the Board of Education is able to meet again in person, and am equally excited that other town meetings, such as those held by the Board of Finance, have returned to in-person meetings as well.”
Some Staples students agree with the choice, but hope that COVID-19 mitigating guidelines will be present with meetings.
“There would definitely be some health risks as COVID is still a threat, but regarding decision making, I think it would be fine if not beneficial in terms of comparison to the high school’s safety procedures,” Kaila Kennedy ’23 said. “Members of the board would be able to see what works on a smaller scale and use that to help make decisions regarding the school and its students.”
With the end of the pandemic near, some town officials are choosing to reflect on how they have kept our political process alive through virtual meetings.
“Virtual meetings allowed the democratic process to carry forward throughout the pandemic,” Bayer said. “[However,] gathering in person to discuss and debate the town’s operations allows our citizens to best express their thoughts and ideas about Westport’s needs.”