While we may find ourselves in the throes of what poet Christina Rossetti dubbed “In the Bleak Midwinter,” there is much to look forward to and to be optimistic about in Bulldog Nation this month.
Big news includes the announcement by Gov. McKee that as of Friday, March 4, districts will have the autonomy to set their own policies regarding the wearing of face masks in schools and at school events. We all hoped to be at this point much sooner, but the variants of COVID that emerged since last summer delayed this milestone. The School Committee will consider my recommendation that Westerly make mask wearing optional going forward as part of their meeting agenda this evening. However we proceed, WPS will continue to encourage a layered mitigation approach to minimizing infection spread; promoting vaccination, mask wearing for those who choose to, providing for distancing as possible, maintaining enhanced sanitation and air quality initiatives and what’s maybe most important now, staying home when sick. We will remain ready to reconsider all protocols and adjust if needed, but this is potentially a very big step on the path to getting back to more normal teaching and learning, socialization and the smiling faces of kids in our classrooms that we have all missed for too long.
February is also Career & Technical Education (CTE) Month, so it’s an appropriate time to highlight the outstanding and varied options available to students at Westerly High School through our CTE programs. Westerly High school currently offers nine Career & Technical Education programs (Advanced Manufacturing, Arts Designer, Construction, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Criminal Justice, Entry Level Web/Software Designer, Information Technology Specialist and Medical Pathways) that prepare our students for college and career readiness and success. Students who participate in our CTE programs have a myriad of opportunities available to them, ranging from earning college credits, earning industry-recognized certifications and credentials, accruing work-based learning experience through authentic hands-on projects, and working and learning in state-of-the-art facilities in their chosen area of study. Throughout our program offerings our goal is always to encourage our students to find and pursue their passion and choose their purpose. We seek to empower them to find that thing that sparks their interest and then allow them to develop their skills in preparation for both short and long-term success.
In addition to preparing students for high-demand, high-wage careers, our CTE programs also have a positive impact on not just our school community, but in our town as well. Over the years, our Construction program has taken on projects for the town ranging from building signs and lifeguard chairs to picnic tables and sheds. At the beginning of this school year, Westerly High School Construction students designed, built and delivered a custom “bus stop” for a WPS kindergarten student who was in need of a safe, effective shelter from inclement weather when awaiting his morning bus. This project has received both local and national news coverage, but the greatest reward was when our students visited the student at his house and witnessed his excitement and gratitude for their work. Bulldogs not just doing well, but doing good!
Those fortunate enough to see the Westerly High School fall production of “The Mousetrap” were universal in their praise not just for the performances of an outstanding student cast, but also for the work of the drama program’s director, Mr. Ryan Zemanek, and his inclusion of so many “behind the scenes” contributors (staff and students) who made “Mousetrap” such a communal success. Westerly High School is proud to announce the continuation of the revival of its drama program with this year’s spring musical, “Little Shop of Horrors.” Riffing off the monster movies of the 1950s, the play cleverly satirizes the less principled parts of the movie industry with a giant, singing, man-eating plant. This ambitious production (again directed by Mr. Zemanek and music teacher Sarah Ferry) will take the utmost advantage of the new, state-of-the-art sound and lighting system in the auditorium at Babcock Hall and following the precedent set with the production of “Mousetrap,” “Little Shop” will utilize the skills of many Westerly students and staff beyond the talented cast. Construction students have built the sets; Cosmetology students will create the makeup and hair; Art students will decorate the sets and help create the props, and Home Economics students will help create the costumes. The show will run from March 18 through March 20 in the Babcock auditorium and tickets are $3 at the door. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!
In the bleak Mid-Winter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
— C. Rossetti
Mark Garceau is the superintendent of schools in Westerly.