Superintendent Reports Covid Numbers Subsiding in Schools

 

By KATIE MOEN
For The Westfield Leader

WESTFIELD — A recent surge in Covid-19 transmission rates that threatened to derail in-person instruction seems to be leveling out for the Westfield school district.

“Since our return in January, we did see a surge in positive Covid cases brought into our schools from the winter break that continued into the early part of last week. I’m pleased to report that the dramatic increase seems to have finally subsided,” said Superintendent Raymond González, Ed.D., at the Westfield Board of Education’s first regular meeting of 2022, held Tuesday in the high-school cafeteria.

The district will monitor the situation as it develops, Dr. González said, and will revisit some of its more stringent safety measures as numbers continue to go down.

Tuesday night’s meeting featured a board member training session led by Derlys Maria Gutierrez, Esq., of Adams, Gutierrez and Lattiboudere, LLC. The informational presentation outlined ethical standards for board members and administrative staff and included topics such as transparency, conduct, favoritism, chain of command and appropriate social behavior.

Ms. Gutierrez noted that board members should take particular care not to misrepresent personal opinions as those of the board as a whole.

“There is no such thing as a personal Facebook account,” she said, adding that while social media has not led to any specific challenges in Westfield, other board members from around the state have gotten into trouble in the past for failing to separate their own political ideologies from those of the group that they were elected to represent.

The board also voted to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Westfield Police Department that will allow law enforcement officials to access certain live feed surveillance footage captured by the district’s video recording system.

According to the terms of the MOU, police will have instant access to both internal and external feeds in the event of an emergency, defined by the terms of the agreement as “a situation that poses an imminent threat to the life, safety, health or property of the District’s facilities, its students, staff and other occupants.” Such situations could include fire, acts of terrorism or threatened or actual use of a firearm or other potentially deadly weapon.

Police also will be able to access the feeds in certain non-emergency situations (such as when the school is closed or extra monitoring is deemed necessary by the district’s administrative staff), but are prohibited from recording the feeds outside of an emergency due to student privacy restrictions.

The board received a clean audit for the 2020-2021 school year with no recommendations for improvement or corrective action. The audit was completed by Hodulik and Morrison, P.A., and found that the district has managed to remain in compliance with all of its mandated standards.

Although the clean audit will help lay the groundwork for this year’s budgetary discussions, Business Administrator Dana Sullivan said, the district will still need to work diligently over the next several weeks to solidify the numbers in time for the budget meeting on Tuesday, March 15.

“We’re not going to have our state aid package until the end of February, so we’re still waiting on that,” Ms. Sullivan said. “The tax levy can only increase by 2 percent, and we have health insurance, salaries, special education — they’re all increasing by more than that. We’re working on various ways to gain efficiencies or eliminate things from the budget that we can do without so that we can refine those numbers.”

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