Molly Gold '21, Creative Director
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Connecticut, Westport is taking measures to increase social distancing and reduce the spread of the virus. According to Gov. Ned Lamont, Fairfield county continues to have the highest number of confirmed cases at 14,719 and 1,167 deaths as of May 27. However, the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has been decreasing since late April.
In order to assist residents in preventing the spread of the virus, the town procured 25,000 surgical masks, which were distributed on May 12 at Bedford Middle School. The masks were donated by the Grace Farms Foundation.
“Grace Farms Foundation aspires to advance good in the world, providing a peaceful respite and porous platform to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community and explore faith,” according to the foundation’s website.
Gov. Lamont announced on May 5 that all Connecticut schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Students’ last day of distance learning will be on June 9 and no final exams will take place. Seniors were able to participate in virtual internships that started on May 18. Many seniors opted for a “do it yourself” internship, in which they were able to create their own area of study, as most traditional internships were no longer available.
On May 15, Compo beach was reopened with strict restrictions in order to promote social distancing. The parking lots have been at 50% capacity, with some spaces blocked out, and beach emblems will only be available for Westport and Weston residents.
In order to open the school as soon as possible, construction will focus on the school’s interior as well as the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Lower-priority exterior work will continue into the school year and be finished in December after students are transferred back to CMS.
Interior construction, however, has been problematic in terms of delays. According to O’Day, interior construction work presents the most difficulties when trying to maintain social distancing, due to the space-limited nature of working inside the school.
Despite this, O’Day has said that regulation of the school’s temperature and humidity is a priority to prevent the return of any mold. This effort is also being pursued through the removal of porous items, including books, from all classrooms and the library at CMS.
According to Kris Szabo, principal on special assignment at BMS and soon-to-be returning principal of CMS, many of the items removed could not be properly cleaned or would be too costly to do so, therefore many classroom materials, including all of the books in the school, will be replaced. Szabo and other administrators are coordinating with the Director of Library Media and Technology, Natalie Carrignan, to accomplish this task.
On the other side of the CMS reopening delay, away from administration and construction, are the BMS students and teachers that will be affected by delay more than anyone. According to Eli Rubinchik ’25, a former CMS student, the departure will be bittersweet.
“In the beginning of this whole situation, I was pretty upset they put us with all the Bedford kids, especially since almost all of the kids in my pod were from Bedford,” Rubinchick said. “We all made new friends this year, but next year we’ll be separated from them, which can be hard."
This sentiment was also echoed by Paul Ferrante, seventh grade English teacher, as well as Szabo, who both feel they’ve made connections in the Bedford community, but still await the return to their own classrooms and community.
“As painful as this is for everyone, I have to accept the reality that there are things that we simply can’t control,” O’Day said in the April 13 BOE meeting, when he first indicated the chance of delay. “We can certainly mitigate the downside, and we will, and we’ll do that every day.”
In this time of unprecedented uncertainty and isolation, it is critical that Staples students maintain a strong sense of unity with their peers and their community as a whole.
We commend the relationship between students and the school which has been seen through Mr. Thomas’ weekly videos and podcasts. Students have both presented questions regarding the pass-fail system and participated on ‘This is a Wreckording’ through various clubs and groups. These activities help to inform the student-body about updates and their peers, creating a connection within the school.
However, we could all strive to increase our connections with the wider community as well.
We have seen both students and teachers, as well as many Staples clubs and sports teams, participating in efforts to better the community such as making masks, organizing supply drives and volunteering, endeavors we support and feel should be highlighted. Broadcasting these efforts would allow for greater participation in these activities and serve as inspiration for others to engage in charitable work.
There are several ways to showcase these efforts. Firstly, including student messages about community building and charity work in Thomas’ or the assistant principal’s weekly emails would spread the word about various events. Clubs and teams could also send out messages regarding their individual actions directly to the school, informing and inspiring students to participate.
Additionally, we have seen many students and groups using social media to spread information about their efforts and garner participation. This should be continued, as these methods of outreach both incentivize safe community-building behaviors and illustrate an appreciation for student work.
In many cases, students want to help out but are not sure how to do so or feel that volunteering would put their health at risk. Sharing helpful ideas for safe, healthy and necessary volunteer opportunities, at-home projects and other positive activities on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as through school programs such as emails, would be greatly beneficial to the community.
In this time of ambiguity, Staples students should encourage other students to find comfort and control in their lives as much as possible, both by encouraging and showcasing good behaviors to help inspire peers and increase the connection between those in the school.
The editorial board voted unanimously in favor for this editorial
Amanda Rowan '22, Photostory Editor
When going for a nice walk outside with my friends the checklist is as follows: face mask, latex gloves and a large six-foot gap between us. I wouldn’t say this is ideal, however, even with the boundaries and guidelines, we are still able to get in our meaningful chats while we walk around the neighborhood. Walking and talking are two of my favorite things to do during this time of social distancing, but with the public eager to return to normal life, I fear the rush to reopen Westport businesses and public beaches will endanger many individuals.
Believe me, I’m just as eager as the next person to get back to the life that I once had: to spend time with my friends, go to my favorite restaurants and visit Compo beach. But, when we try to resume our pre-pandemic lives, we endanger ourselves and more importantly those around us who are at a higher risk. Many people have lost loved ones and close friends to the COVID-19 pandemic, and among those lost have been those who have immunodeficiencies or are elderly. By reopening beaches and golf courses, we are encouraging the gatherings of the masses, and who's to say they will all maintain social distancing guidelines?
Reopening will create a domino effect. First, we start out with a minor change: reopening Compo. One thing leads to another and, since the beach is a hot-spot for Westporters, people start gathering, meeting with friends and family and, of course, it begins to overcrowd.
Bringing back a sense of normalcy, the reopening of Compo beach will no doubt fill the void that we’ve all been missing. But once we open the beach, what's next?
Scheduled for May 20, Compo Beach, Longshore Golf Course, outdoor restaurant seating and many other locations in Westport are expected to open up with rules and regulations in place. Before we know it, other locations such as restaurants, shops, salons and malls, will slowly start to emerge with fewer restrictions.
While all of these establishments are helpful at keeping our community sane and busy during quarantine, once the rules start to ease, they are likely to be broken by the public. It starts with a few people who stop wearing masks and start spending time with their friends, possibly contracting the virus and bringing it back to their own homes, where others could get infected.
By reopening the public without certainty over whether or not an individual may be carrying the virus, we allow risk and danger to take over. Those who have immunodeficiencies, the elderly, and the really young are now at risk. We have endangered our own people due to our ignorance and impatience to reopen.
This virus is spreading at a rate that is so rapid that hospitals can hardly control it, and reopening public facilities puts everyone in a dangerous position, including those who work in the healthcare system. Hospitals call for all hands on deck, asking for all healthcare workers to treat patients and re-use supplies such as n-95 masks due to shortages.
In order to safely reopen the public, I believe that all restaurants, beaches and golf courses should implement rules and guidelines in order for individuals to maintain social distancing. When people go to the beach, make sure everyone is wearing a face covering, staying six feet apart from friends and not sharing items.
Though these rules can be very time consuming, they are necessary at helping facilitate a decrease in cases. By enabling specific rules for each place and group to follow, we bring back the feeling of security that many people who are at a higher risk need, and help to show we're all here for each other, and in this together.
Whether it’s your friends, neighbors or peers, we owe it to our community to keep everyone feeling secure, and keeping our coronavirus case admissions at a decreasing level. Life will go back to normal, but patience is key, and rushing the process will only hurt Westport citizens in the end.
Ella Stoler '22, Broadcast Director
There’s little good to be said about a global pandemic.
The crisis has resulted in economic recession, the collapse of health care systems and ultimately, the death of thousands worldwide. However, amid the panic and uncertainty lies many silver linings. Positivity is the key to successfully coping during this pandemic. Now, more than ever, we must proactively consider our mental health and overall well being.
Scientists say social distancing has both been effective in slowing the spread of the virus, and has had a positive impact on the environment. Pollution rates worldwide have had a dramatic decrease due to coronavirus’ restrictions. Global efforts to prevent in-person contact have forced students and workers to remain at home. Restrictions have resulted in fewer factories in production, vehicles on the road and planes in the air.
With nearly all means of transportation closed and factories shut down, cities’ pollution rates and appearances have significantly changed. Countries such as India, China, Brazil and the U.S. have experienced an immense improvement in air quality. According to the NY Post, the level of nitrogen dioxide, a greenhouse gas that can cause respiratory problems and cancer, was down 42% in China.
The cleaner air is certainly a silver lining to the recent and ongoing lockdowns worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution normally causes roughly 4.6 million premature deaths annually. However, this new evidence suggests that our atmosphere is a little healthier during this time.
The virus restrictions have not only had a global impact, but clearly the effects are also evident in our everyday lives. We must take advantage of this unique time to better ourselves and foster productivity. The extra time at home provides an opportunity for self-reflection and development.
This is also a great time to learn something new or reacquire a skill that you had in the past. Whether it’s exercising, learning how to cook or practicing a musical instrument, there are plenty of ways to keep busy other than binge-watching Netflix. Quarantine has made it possible to do the things we were always “too busy” to do because of the burdens of a typical schedule.
Being quarantined with family also allows us to strengthen our connections with loved ones. Staying connected to those who are important to us is necessary during these trying times. Quarantine gives us the opportunity to find new ways to bond and ultimately enjoy more quality time with each other. So talk to your parents, FaceTime your friends and reach out to grandparents and relatives. Social media is a resource we should take full advantage of to maintain our connections at this time.
Even with these many new activities, this time has also helped me discover a newfound appreciation for my previous schedule and routine of daily life. I now find myself longing for the daily tasks I used to dread and the busy calendar I wanted to escape. It is a strange realization that this might be the new normal for a while. Although it is still uncertain how long virus restrictions will last, we must be sure to take advantage of this unique time and the rare opportunities it offers.
Molly Gold ’21, Creative Director
Balancing SAT preparation, beginning the college process, rigorous coursework, extracurriculars, sports and the already insurmountable pressure that students face all add up to create the monster that is junior year. This year, however, our knight in shining armor wasn’t the arrival of summer, but rather the implementation of distance learning. In what seems like the blink of an eye, AP tests have been reduced, college tours have gone virtual, SATs have been pushed back and for many, our extracurriculars are no longer available, lessening our load.
Most students at Staples are used to feeling high amounts of pressure to excel in all aspects of their education. In my experience, this pressure has almost exclusively stemmed from myself and my classmates, rather than my parents and teachers.
Now that my education has become completely independent from my peers, I have felt more relief than I would have ever anticipated. I no longer sit in class writing a timed essay, while simultaneously glancing over to see if my paper’s length is similar to that of the student sitting next to me. I no longer rush through math tests, worried that I’m turning it in too early or too late. I no longer feel the need to hold myself to anyone else’s standards aside from my own. Without the added pressure that so many of us have come to accept as just a part of our education, I have found myself much more eager to complete assignments with the purpose of learning, rather than getting a good grade.
Additionally, with virtual tours and postponed standardized tests, our dive into the college process just became much more manageable. Although the virtual tours are often difficult to truly gauge a school’s environment and facilities, we now have the unique opportunity to visit virtually any school in the country without leaving our couches.
This has been a game changer for me. I have been able to visit a wide range of schools within minutes of each other, which would not have been possible through traditional tours. Because there’s nothing to lose from clicking through a website, I have been more open to looking into schools that I originally thought weren’t right for me. This has caused me to be able to enter my college application process with a much more open mind than I otherwise would have had.
Additionally, without the daunting presence of an impending SAT or ACT, I feel less pressure to cram in preparation for the test. Not only do I have more time to prepare, but with a shortened school day, I am able to balance studying with schoolwork much more easily. As many schools go temporarily test-optional for the class of 2021, the additional pressure to obtain top scores is no longer relevant.
While all of these things have significantly made junior year easier, they don’t compare to one thing: sleep. Between sports, extracurriculars, homework and getting up at the crack of dawn to secure a spot at Wakeman (that last one might just be me), so many students have become accustomed to running on less than five hours of sleep.
Now that our learning has been placed on our time, we are able to enjoy all of the sleep that we need. While we still sometimes have to get up for an 8:30 Google Hangout, there’s nothing stopping us from resuming our sleep after class.
While the flexibility in our education has given many of us bizarre sleep schedules, I can’t remember a time where I have been able to consistently get the right amount of sleep. Now, when we’re staying up late, it’s usually for Zoom calls with friends or Netflix binges, not last-minute essays or cramming for a test. While I miss my friends, activities and routines, there truly is nothing like waking up at 11:00 on a Monday to start your classwork while eating breakfast in your pajamas.
Grace Livecchi '21, Social Media Director
Amid this global pandemic, many of us find ourselves with a lot of extra time on our hands. Some people have picked up hobbies such as playing the guitar or painting, while others took this as a chance to give back to the community. With medical supplies running low, a few local superheroes have cranked up their sewing skills and started making masks.
Natalie Bandura ’22 has founded “Masks That Matter,” a local organization that makes masks free of charge for residents in need. Participants of the organization have made the whole process quick and easy: applicants fill out a google form linked on their website with answers to basic questions such as the desired number of masks and urgency of the situation. “Masks That Matter” volunteer Emma Nordberg ’22 said that the first mask she made took hours, as she, along with the organization's other members, had no prior sewing experience.
Other students began a clothing drive to support mask-making for hospitals. Tatiana Bicalho ’21 and Arden Scherer ’21 began “Cotton for a Cause,” a social media initiative that asks residents to donate old cotton t-shirts for mask making materials. The two have collectively made 116 masks which have been shipped to hospitals around the country seeking donations.
Aside from her passion ofto sewing, Bicalho’s inspiration came from social media.
“I saw on social media how many people on the front line were without or having to reuse disposable masks,” Bicalho said.
Although producing masks is crucial, there are plenty of other ways citizens can lend out a helping hand. Desperate to help, many locals scoured their drawers for an item or two to donate to “Cotton for a Cause."
“I think it’s important to donate,” Seitz said, “at this time anything you can spare can save lives.”
Granting access to technology was not that easy for New Haven Public Schools. Wilbur Cross High School started distributing Chromebooks, but was only able to give out one per family.
“This still hasn’t resolved the issue completely,” Coronel said. “When a family has more than one kid in school and they have to share one Chromebooks [it] gets really complicated when two different teachers are both holding Google Hangout meetings at the same time.”
In addition to technology access, Fairfield County has been able to continue giving other types of services to their members while out of school that other districts haven’t. Trumbull High School has given immense support to students through the guidance department.
“The guidance department has worked hard to support students,” Katie DeRose, a Trumbull High School student, said. “They have let students know that they can still reach out to their guidance counselors for help and have continued many guidance-related activities that would have occurred in the remainder of the school year, [...] [such as] help with their resumes and job [and] college applications.”
Another challenge of school closures in some districts revolves around parents who now must help their children with school work. Staples student Belknap volunteers at an immigrant center in Stamford and has seen the effects of closed schools for children whose parents don’t speak English at home.
“We’ve been offering online tutoring for these kids, and [reading and writing] have only worsened without constant exposure to English in school,” Belknap said. “There are many other situations like this where it’s hard for parents to provide the same resources for their kids at home that they are used to getting at school, which I’ve learned has become a huge issue due to the pandemic.”
However, while COVID-19 school closures have shown the many inequalities of Connecticut schools, it has also shown commonalities in student experiences across the state. All students have lost the face-to-face interactions with their peers and teachers, but many have also seen their schools come together.
“With the school closing, a lot of the valuable interactions that we had in class have disappeared,” DeRose said. “On the brighter side, I think this experience has brought the school community together. [...] The district has started to further recognize student achievements that they otherwise would not have acknowledged. Additionally, students have grown to be more supportive of one another, whether it is posting daily jokes for their class in Google Classroom or recognizing seniors with their post-high school plans and senior quotes on Instagram.”
Wilbur Cross in New Haven also shared this mix of negative and positive outcomes from online learning.
“As a senior, I have had my prom, graduation and small other senior activities taken away,” Coronel said. “This brought me down in the beginning, thinking how I will never be able to let my friends sign my yearbook or my family see me walk across the [stage.] Nevertheless, I feel COVID-19 brought the class of 2020 closer and able to share a sad experience that, who knows, maybe one day we will laugh about.”
sam gold '20
As a journalist, we’re trained to get basic information from each interviewee. Name, spelling, title... you know the drill. “What’s your preferred title?,” I asked him. The Google Meet screen switched back to Lord Sovereign, Batman enthusiast and eighth-year math teacher Mike Forgette sitting on his sofa as he patiently waited for me to write “sovereign” correctly.
An unexpected answer from an honors calculus teacher? Most definitely. But super on-brand for Mike Forgette, a songwriter, vocalist, and 70s rock guitarist.
The two Mikes aren’t that compartmentalized, though; his double-life isn’t a huge secret to his students. In fact, his experience as an entertainer has a huge influence on the classroom.
“It's like being on a stage and performing but at the same time,” he said. “It's performing with an end goal of education, which is kinda cool.”
Despite how positively Forgette speaks of education now, he wasn’t always singing the same tune. (Pun unintended but I’m proud of how it worked out.) For years, he was not a great student with no intention of becoming a teacher.
“There was one quarter in English where I didn't hand in one paper and it was just because I just really didn’t want to write,” he recalls, looking off into space. “I was good at writing, I just didn't want to, so I was a terrible student in high school.”
Though it was in high school where he found his knack: performing. He started writing and performing in “cringy, awful bands” (his words, not mine). The gauche songs transformed to experimental rock in college, occupying his time alongside his job as an SAT tutor, the catalyst for his interest in teaching.
During graduate school, Mike made his final musical transformation, starting up his current, progressive-rock band under the name “1974,” the name a tribute to the year Rush’s first album came out.
Forgette’s background as a performer is evident during his classes. He goes with the flow, knowing he has to get from A to B but takes the improvised, scenic route — even when distance learning adds speed bumps.
“I make the same silly, stupid jokes that I would normally make,” Forgette said. “I just hear silence now instead of laughter, but it's okay. If you're in theater, you’re used to nights where you say things that are funny and no one laughs because maybe [the jokes] aren’t funny.”
Though the shift to distance learning has made seeing the class’s response to his antics and escapades difficult, Forgette retains his signature genuine, positive attitude.
“No matter what happens, the things that you can't control, let them go,” he said. “And the things that you can control, make the absolute best you can out of it.”
Karina Murray '22, features Editor
Google Hangouts, Zoom calls and Schoology conferences are all in use as the shut down of schools everywhere has forced teachers to adapt curriculum so students can learn from the safety of their homes. But while it may be easy to teach a math or English lesson through a video chat, music and art teachers are finding the circumstances much more difficult. Teachers and students are being resourceful with the usage of technology and home equipment in order to continue nurturing their creative outlets from home.
With the lack of school-provided art supplies, students’ creativity is being further challenged with the task of locating possible art materials from within their homes.
“We have had to alter the curriculum to take into account that most students do not have the supplies at home for many of our art classes,” art teacher Angela Simpson said. “For the mask unit in Ceramics, for example, Mrs. Wright and I gave students a recipe for flour and salt dough that could be used in place of clay. They also had the option to use cardboard, egg cartons, duct tape, aluminum foil, whatever they could get their hands on.”
Ceramics is just one example of a class that has been forced to think outside of the box in order to continue their learning experience; Advanced Jewelry has also faced challenges with the lack of supplies. Instead of requiring the physical creation of pieces, students have also been given the option of creating vision boards with a “theme” of pieces that they may want to make in the future. Advanced Jewelry student Lily Harrington ’22 has chosen the ocean to inspire her creations.
“Teachers are suggesting to be resourceful with materials that you have around your house,” Harrington said. “You could use found objects such as coins or string that you have [already].”
From the lack of art supplies to the inability to give direct demonstrations or feedback, distance learning has certainly not been easy for art classes. However, teachers are impressed with the flexibility and creativity of their students.
“I have seen many creative backdrops made of sheets, tapestries and printer paper,” photography teacher Stacey Phelan said. “While distance learning has been a challenge, it certainly has been great for creativity.”
As for music classes, chorus, orchestra and band have unfortunately not been able to practice as collective ensembles. However, student musicians remain dedicated and continue to practice daily.
Chorus classes have been given a variety of distance learning options. Maddie Carusone ’22 has decided to watch NPR Tiny Desk concerts of various artists including Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers and Los Lobos. She then answers a variety of questions regarding the concerts, learning important techniques from successful artists. Chorus classes have also been able to catch up with one another and discuss their learning experiences through Google Hangout.
Orchestra students have decided to take a different approach to distance learning and are utilizing an app called SmartMusic to continue their practices. SmartMusic is an app that presents students with various music and records them playing it to submit to teachers. This app has certainly helped orchestra students practice their talents from home.
“[Band has] two-week practice assignments where we set a goal for ourselves and do a cumulative five hours of practicing on the goal,” oboe player Ally Schwartz ’22 said. “At the end of the two weeks, [we] submit a video to [our teacher] demonstrating that goal.”
While arts and music classes have had difficulty adjusting to the new quarantined curriculum, these teachers are doing their best to continue the learning experience from home.
Lily Kane '20, Staff Writer
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually every sports season has been put on pause. Beyond the major leagues, college sports have been hit especially hard, observing that the lack of students on campus and the health risks associated with large sporting events makes people unsure of the future of collegiate athletics.
At Staples, countless student-athletes are committed to universities as athletic recruits. Not only has the coronavirus pandemic affected the spring sports season in the FCIAC and state, but it also puts these students’ future teams at risk.