Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Around 2 p.m. the Westport Fire Department, Police, and EMS responded to a motor vehicle crash on Saugatuck Avenue near Charles Street/I-95 overpass. A utility truck and a passenger car crashed, then the truck crashed into the pole, which then fell on the truck. The cable and power lines caught fire about 150 feet south of the accident. One driver was taken to the hospital. DEEP was notified because the transformer on the pole leaked when it landed on the truck. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Westport Fire Dept. photos
The state said its Westport COVID-19 case count was up 5, at 663 (605 confirmed and 58 probable) and deaths unchanged at 24 (16 confirmed and 8 probable).
Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice today issued the following update to school families:
I would like to share some updates as we approach the Thanksgiving weekend.
The following update will include information on the immediate future, quarantining practices, supports for quarantined students and distance learners, transportation, travel guidance, COVID-19 reporting, and some of my personal thoughts on what we might expect over the horizon.
The Immediate Future
As projected in October, community infection rates increased sharply over the past month. Meanwhile, our schools have shown a remarkable resilience in halting any spread of the virus in our buildings. I am confident that vigilance in maintaining our mitigating measures (i.e.masks, distancing, hand hygiene, etc.), as well as keeping the density of our schools at 50% capacity, have ensured this measure of success.
We have identified nearly 80 positive student and staff COVID-19 cases in our schools since September. As a result, nearly 1,500 students and staff have been asked to quarantine. Yet, there has been little to no spread of COVID-19 once positive cases have been identified in our schools. The lack of positive COVID-19 tests of those in quarantine is affirmation of our ability to halt the spread of the virus once it enters our schools.
We will return to on-site schooling in the hybrid model on Monday November 30 at all of our schools. There will be just over three weeks until our next break beginning December 24. As I mentioned in my last message to the school community, I see this year in 4-6 week increments.
Public health experts project high transmission rates until the start of the new year. It is critical that parents and those in the community partner with us to maintain the same vigilance that is evident in our schools in order to keep our schools open for on-site schooling. An outbreak of the virus, or staffing challenges, can put all of our schools into a fully remote model.
Sharpening Our Quarantining Practices
Quarantining is a necessary mitigating measure in preventing the spread of COVID-19 once a positive case has been identified. As the number of positive cases dramatically increased over the past few weeks in our community, placing Westport into the high risk category, we took a conservative approach with our contact tracing efforts in the schools. This approach led to recommended quarantines for large numbers of staff and students.
Again, our mitigating measures have been extremely effective resulting in a very limited number of positive cases through in-school transmision. This fact is most significant. In reviewing data related to the number of quarantines associated with close contacts in our schools, it has been determined that spread in our schools has been extremely rare. For example, of 508 classroom exposures recorded at Staples High School through November 23rd, only one is believed to have led to an additional positive case within the school. This success in controlling the spread of COVID-19 allows us to modify our current approach to contact tracing, specifically in the middle and high school, which will help limit the number of students and staff needing to quarantine.
With support from the Westport/Weston Health District, and our medical advisor, Dr. Norman Weinberger, we intend to take a more precise approach when determining “close contacts” and recommending a self-quarantine. These changes will be in effect after we return from the Thanksgiving break.
Instructional Support for Distance Learning and Quarantined Students
As the number of students in distance learning and quarantine increased, new challenges were posed for our school district. I suspect we would have concluded last summer that an increase in distance learners (i.e. from 168 in K-5 on October 30 to an anticipated 207 on November 30) and those in quarantine would coincide with a move to fully remote instruction. However, given the resilience demonstrated by our schools, and the encouragement of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, our doors remain open for on-site schooling in the hybrid model.
In order to address the number of students in need of instruction in distance learning or quarantine, I am very pleased to share that we have secured the services of multiple certified teachers to provide support for these programs. These resources should be in place to start following the Thanksgiving break.
The provision of transportation is guaranteed for each public school student. However, given the complexity of transportation during the pandemic we encourage parents to transport their children to and from school whenever possible. Decreasing density on our school buses will minimize the need to quarantine students when a positive case is identified on a bus. Of course we will continue to transport all students in need of transportation.
Travel guidance has been issued. Interstate and international travel is forbidden without following the guidelines. Failure to comply with Connecticut’s travel policies (https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/travel) may result in a civil penalty of $500 for each violation. Please take this seriously and adhere to the guidelines issued by the CDC and Connecticut Department of Public Health.
COVID-19 Reporting Hotline
Over the Horizon
As challenging as this year has been, and as dark as it is expected to get over the next 8 weeks or so, I am more optimistic now than I’ve ever been about our future.
Although we have used rather primitive methods to confront this pandemic (i.e. physical distance, masks, etc.), the ubiquity of biotechnology breakthroughs is close to catching up. Treatments have emerged for those infected. Proactive surveillance testing is becoming a reality, and not just for the NBA and the most exclusive colleges and private schools. Vaccines are racing towards the finish line with success rates that match the aspirations and hopes of recent biotechnology promises.
With that, I would like to bring your mind to the other side of this pandemic, which could be within reach in a matter of months. Although I do not expect a “war is over” declaration, I do anticipate that these breakthroughs will conspire with our collective purpose to turn our exclusive attention towards the work of teaching and learning, towards the work of preparing all learners for the challenges of the modern world, and towards building a system that enables all students to thrive and make positive contributions to their world.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, for this reflective moment, for this optimism, I am most grateful.
In closing, I’d like to share one of my favorite pieces on the purpose of education. As you contemplate the other side of this pandemic and a potential renewed vision of our schools, may these words rise within you and inspire you to action.
In 1947, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this essay for his school newspaper at Morehouse College. Although published nearly 75 years ago, it rings as true today as it did then.
Have a restful and peaceful Thanksgiving,
Margaret (“Marcy”) Deiley Dearth of Westport died on Nov. 6, 2020. She was 71.
Margaret Deiley Dearth Contributed photo
Marcy was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 25, 1949 to Walter and Margaret Dearth. Throughout her childhood, Marcy spent her time surrounded by horses at the family horse farm where they bred and raced horses, fostering an early love of animals that she would carry with her throughout her life.
A gifted athlete in a variety of sports, she belonged to numerous teams, most notably the Junior Olympic Swimming Team. In her teens, Marcy moved with her family to Long Island where she became an accomplished sailor, and went on to transport sailboats all over the world.
After years of sailing the ocean she hung up her fins and became a successful buyer for Lord & Taylor before she decided to follow her true passion, teaching. After settling in Westport in the late 1970s, she completed her master’s in early childhood education at Sacred Heart University and became a teacher at Trinity Parish Nursery School, where she remained a beloved teacher for nearly 30 years. The popular science program she created for the children she loved has been adopted by schools across the tri-state area. Known to everyone as Ms. Marcy, she brought joy to all those who knew her and warmed the lives of those she encountered. Her boisterous laugh, smile, and jubilant nature were infectious; the world was a brighter place with Marcy in it.
A lover of books and art, Marcy always had a book recommendation or new handmade bracelet for those she loved. Her favorite pastime in Westport was spent walking with her friends and family at Longshore Marina and fishing with her son James on his boat on Long Island Sound. She will be fondly missed by her many friends including those at Trinity Parish, CT Challenge, Westport Senior Center, and the Boy Scouts of Troop 36.
She is survived by her son James and daughter-in-law Brianne, sister Melanie, and beloved golden retriever Oakley. A memorial bench will be placed at Longshore Marina, where her dear friends can remember her and find joy looking out at her favorite spot in Westport. Services will be private due to current circumstances, but her son James will host a Celebration of Life event when conditions allow.
Westport Town Offices & Senior Center are closed to the public.
9 a.m. – Electronically – Board of Selectmen: live streamed on http://www.westportct.gov, Optimum ch. 79, Frontier ch. 6020
Westport Senior Center YouTube Channel
Westport Library Event Calendar
Westport Library YouTube Page
Earthplace YouTube Channel
Virtual Westport Museum for History & Culture
See more events: Celebrate Westport Calendar
Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice today issued the following update to school families:
Dear Westport Families and Staff,
In our efforts to remain transparent with reports of positive Covid-19 cases associated with our schools, we will continue to provide these updates as information is confirmed. As of the time I am writing to you this evening we have 2 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 from the following schools:
- Saugatuck Elementary School – 1
- Bedford Middle School – 1
Those impacted have been notified by school and District officials. As a reminder, families are asked to report positive of COVID-19 cases of students using our reporting voicemail or email regardless of whether the students are in remote or hybrid models of instruction. Please follow this link for more information on reporting.
Superintendent of Schools
UPDATE: On Nov. 24, 2020, the WPD provided this update, “This afternoon, Gerlyne Springer has been located/has returned. This investigation has since been closed. Thank you to all for your assistance.”
On Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, the Westport Police Department started looking for a missing person, a girl, missing from the Saugatuck area. The girl, Gerlyne Springer, left her home around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, and did not return. She did not respond to attempts to contact her.
Gerlyne Springer is 17. She is described as a light-skinned black female, 5’5” tall, weighing approximately 250 lbs. She currently has long braided extensions in her hair colored both brown and purple. She was last seen wearing dark clothing and glasses.
The WPD Detective Bureau is actively investigating this incident and following up on several possible locations, however at this time Springer’s exact whereabouts remain unknown. Anyone with any information that could assist in this investigation is asked to contact the WPD at (203) 341-6000 and/or the Detective Bureau at (203) 341-6080.