For Westport kindergarteners, red light means but one thing — ‘Ssshhhh.’
A new ‘Talk Light,’ installed this week by police and firefighters, works wonders at keeping lunchtime decibels bearable in the Macomber School cafeteria.
“With 119 kindergarten students all having their lunch at the same time, it can get pretty loud at times,” said Tracy Perreira (aka Nurse Tracy), the school nurse who also helps out with lunch duty. “Lunch is their social time so it’s their time to talk to their friends — only they need to use their indoor voices.”
The Talk Light looks like a road traffic light with green, yellow and red lights.
Green means that noise volumes are just right — “that we are all using our indoor voices.”
But when the volume invariably goes up, students hear a beep and the light starts to flash yellow for one minute. If at the end of that minute, voices have quieted, the light goes back to green. But if the hubbub has not abated, it goes red.
The children “really pay attention to it,” Ms. Perreira said. When some of them see that the light has turned yellow, they are quick to shush their friends.
The red light message has even spread to classrooms and hallways where a teacher need only say “Red light” and kindergarteners put one finger to their lips and say “sshh,” and their other hand in the air. “It works wonders and it’s a fun way to deal with noise,” Ms. Perreira said.
“We love our new Talk Light,” added Principal Juli Pasetto.
The Talk Light replaces a decades-old less sophisticated version that was formerly used at Westport Elementary. Macomber inherited it “but when we got it it was on the fritz.”
Westport police officer Mike Silvia learned of this and set out in search of a new one.
He tracked down a new $1,000 Talk Light whose purchase price was met thanks to donations from the Westport Police Association, Westport Permanent Firefighters Association, Lees Market and BayCoast Bank of Westport.
Last week, police and firefighters installed the new light in the cafeteria — wide-eyed kindergarten students watched the process as they arrived for lunch.
Pictured is Firefighter Darren Nunes and Police Officer Mike Silvia installing the light.