WESTFIELD – After receiving guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Superintendent of Schools Stefan Czaporowski announced that Westfield Public Schools would begin remote learning on April 13.
Once the school districts across the area received guidance from DESE, Czaporowski said they also received a template from Ludlow Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Gazda and then worked to organize a plan specifically for the Westfield Schools. “Todd Gazda was the representative of the Connecticut Valley Superintendent Roundtable to the commissioner in those meetings so he issued a template which was pretty great to go by. However, we had to take several days through teleconferencing to plan our own,” he said.
Czaporowski said the biggest challenge so far has been trying to secure devices and internet for students that don’t have access at home. “We have over 1000 requests for Chromebooks that we’re going to try to fill next week,” he said, “But with such a large amount and trying to follow social distancing guidelines, that’s a lot to distribute.”
Along with distributing the Chromebooks the School District worked with Westfield Gas and Electric to create two wireless hotspots with the potential to expand and he said the district is looking for the best locations to serve students without internet access.
As part of the new guidelines, the schools will be shifting to a credit/no credit system and many of the projects will take students away from the computer as well. Czaporowski said, “I want to emphasize that not everything is on the computer, some of the assignments will be go outside and do something for science, it has to be balanced. You can’t be stuck to your screen all day.”
He added that there will not be any summative assessments, including final exams during this period and students will be working more on projects and other similar activities.
While the schools have rolled out the credit/no credit system, Czaporowski said that they are still determining how the grades will look once the school year is over. “I know the commissioner is going to give us more guidance but we’re also going to do what’s best for our own kids. In my experience pass/fail doesn’t get factored into GPA, but it’s still to be determined,” he said.
During this time, Czaporowski explained that the district is trying to limit student anxiety through the curriculum and that guidance counselors are available by phone for students that may be struggling.
“Our counselors are checking in with our students they normally would. So I think it’s important to try to remove some of the reasons there would be anxiety. I can’t do anything about the anxiety over the coronavirus, but the student can talk to their school counselor about it,” he said.
Czaporowski added that even though the new remote learning curriculum begins on April 13, the district would still observe April vacation the following week to give staff some time to take a step back. He said, “Most, if not all of our teachers have been working with students since we got sent home and they have families of their own. I think they can benefit from this time to get rejuvenated and can use some rest from all they’ve been doing.”
Czaporowski also added that one of the locations in the district’s lunch distribution programs would be moving from the Abner Gibbs School to Westfield Middle School.