Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Local News

Westbrook Middle and High Schools Move to Remote Learning

Late on Nov. 1, Interim Superintendent of Schools Patricia Charles alerted the school community to a 14-day closure of both Westbrook High School (WHS) and Westbrook Middle School (WMS) based on a case of COVID-19 documented at each school. Students will begin distance learning until Nov. 13.

Charles herself learned only that afternoon about two cases of students testing positive, one at WHS and one at WMS.

"It is a bit of a roller coaster when these things happen because so many things have to go into motion immediately," she said by phone on Nov. 2. "Notifying the parents, determining the close contacts.

"It's a lot to do I a short amount of time, especially when you don't learn about it until the middle of the day," she continued. "All yesterday and all last night we were contacting parents and determining whether their children were close contacts or not."

Both schools shifted immediately into distance learning and opened on Nov. 2.

"We knew when we develped our re-entry plans [over the summer] that it was important that we are ready at any point and the state reminds of that all the time," Charles explained. "You always hope that it's not going to happen but it does, obviously, so our teachers went right into the remote learning and our kids did very well today.

This is the "silver lining of all the work that everybody did last year [when schools had to close in March] b/c they did get quite good with doing the distance learning," she said.

"Our teachers know exactly what to do," she added.

Charles said is she is very concerned about the upcoming holidays and their potential to present opportunities for the virus to spread.

"This is something that we absolutely have to be vigilant about," she said. "I am so worried that we'll let our guard down and we're going to find ourselves in this situation over and over again."

At gatherings that include family outside the immediate household, people should take the same precautions they take with non-family members: wearing masks when not eating, keeping a six-foot distance, and washing hands.

"All those things add up to keeping us safe," Charles said.

"[F]rom everything that I'm reading...that's where the majority of these things are happening, at gatherings. So we we want to be careful if we want to keep our kids in school," she said.

The note to the community follows.

Dear Staff, Parents, and Guardians,

This afternoon I became aware of a positive case for COVID-19 at Westbrook High School and one at Westbrook Middle School. While we are unable to identify the individuals due to the confidential nature of the medical information, we can share the steps we will be taking to respond to this information.

What This Means for You and Your Child

If your child was in the same class cohort, or in close contact with the confirmed positive individual, you will be contacted by the school and/or Westbrook Health Department and your child will be advised to self-quarantine for 14 days since last class cohort or close contact with the confirmed positive individual, per Addendum 9 of the Connecticut State Department of Education School Reopening Plan. Close contact is defined by the CDC as someone who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. The school and/or local health department will notify you if this action is necessary.

If your child is sick, stay home and contact your healthcare provider. We encourage you to continue social distancing, washing your hands, avoiding gatherings, and monitoring symptoms. If at any time, you or your child begin to develop symptoms of COVID-19 (such as cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), please keep your child home from school and call your healthcare provider for next steps. It is recommended that you call ahead to your healthcare provider before going to the physician’s office, clinic, urgent care or emergency room so they can be prepared for your arrival. They may also refer you to a testing clinic. For the most up to date testing information, call 2-1-1 or visit the United Way of Connecticut website uwc.211ct.org/coronavirus-covid-19-information.

What This Means for Our Schools

The Westbrook health director, Zachary Faiella, and I determined that Westbrook Middle/High school will move to distance learning for 14 days, Nov. 1 to 14. These 14 days will enable the school to be cleaned and to conduct the necessary contact tracing. All students will participate in distance learning during this period. Please note reopening may be subject to change if additional positive cases are identified.

Children may worry about how COVID-19 may impact them, their family, and friends. Parents and guardians can help children navigate this experience in an honest and accurate way to help minimize anxiety or fear. The CDC created recommendations to assist with these conversations: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/talking-with-children.html.

Thank you for your support in these efforts and your patience, flexibility, and understanding as we work together to promote the health and well-being of our community.

Aviva Luria covers news from Old Saybrook and Westbrook for Zip06. Email Aviva at a.luria@shorepublishing.com.

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