WACS Returns To Full Remote Temporarily

Despite a highly successful team effort to maintain in person learning, Westfield Academy and Central School District made the difficult decision to temporarily return to fully remote learning.

Students returned to their classrooms on January 4; however, that same evening, families received a broadcast message from district superintendent Michael Cipolla, stating “We were notified this evening of two positive cases in our district,” and “Due to the quarantine and staffing concerns, our district must shift to remote learning for tomorrow.”

Soon after this broadcast, school administrators determined that it was necessary to close for the remainder of the week. On Friday, January 8, it was decided that remote instruction would continue for an additional week, with a tentative return to hybrid/in-person learning on January 19.

“One of the factors we consider is the level of coverage or substitutes we can provide to safely and adequately cover our education and services. This was a significant factor when considering to move to remote learning,” Cipolla said

Cipolla further explained the decision to move to full remote learning was a difficult one, but was based on the safety of the students. “Throughout this school year, our focus has been to maintain continuity in the education we provide our students while keeping the safety and health of our students and staff a priority,” he said. “The decision to move to fully remote instruction on a temporary basis is never taken lightly.”

Cipolla said the district engaged its contact-tracing protocol immediately upon learning of the confirmed COVID cases. he said. When our district is notified of a positive case of COVID – 19, our contract tracing protocol is initiated,” he said. “This involves contact with the county health department, students, staff and our community.”

The faculty and administration have continually stressed the importance of in-person learning. AT a meeting in August, elementary principal Dr. Mary Rockey said that younger students need time in the classroom. “In my opinion and based on brain research, it is critical that these students are in the building,” she said.

Also, at a December meeting, director of curriculum, Molly Anderson commended district employees for their work to maintain in-person learning, despite fears of being directed to switch to fully remote learning. “Here we are, well into December, and we’re still doing in-person learning,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who has made this possible.”

After the decision was made to temporarily return to remote learning, Cipolla reaffirmed the district’s commitment to in-person learning. “When the halls of WACS are empty it does not feel right. It’s simply not what any of us have experienced prior to the pandemic,” he said. “In-person learning provides opportunities to our students beyond the classroom. The social and emotional opportunities of in-person learning enrich their lives on many levels and provide balance to the overall experience in education.”

Cipolla said that the district is greatly appreciative of the sacrifices that school families have to make.

“The shift in instruction presents challenges for some of our families. We are appreciative and understanding of the sacrifices our families make when a decision is made to move to fully remote instruction,” he said.

WACS middle school and secondary principal Corey Markham said the students made a smooth transition to fully remote learning. “since the middle school and high school students follow a hybrid schedule, the shift to 100% remote instruction moved smoothly,” he said.

“In addition, our students follow the same bell schedule as if they were in the building to connect with the teachers remotely at home.”


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