The Day: First wave of Norwich students return to classrooms

District

Principal Kristie Bourdoulous, left, points the way for Julie Gibbs, center, and her sons Christopher, 10, and Colin, 6, as they arrive Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, for the first day of classes at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

BUY PHOTO

Principal Kristie Bourdoulous, left, points the way for Julie Gibbs, center, and her sons Christopher, 10, and Colin, 6, as they arrive Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, for the first day of classes at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Kindergarten teacher Jeanne McDonald, center, takes photos of her students Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, as they arrive for the first day of school at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

BUY PHOTO

Kindergarten teacher Jeanne McDonald, center, takes photos of her students Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, as they arrive for the first day of school at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

English Language teacher Martha Dwyer, left, greets students coming off the bus Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, as they arrive for the first day of school at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

BUY PHOTO

English Language teacher Martha Dwyer, left, greets students coming off the bus Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, as they arrive for the first day of school at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Bus students line up before they are led into the building upon arrival Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, for the first day of school at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

BUY PHOTO

Bus students line up before they are led into the building upon arrival Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, for the first day of school at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Principal Kristie Bourdoulous, left, greets students arriving for the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

BUY PHOTO

Principal Kristie Bourdoulous, left, greets students arriving for the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, at Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School in Norwich. The city's schools are opening on the hybrid model to start the year, with half the students attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be closed Wednesdays for deep cleaning, when all students will learn remotely. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

 
 
 
 
 

The Day: Published September 08. 2020 3:39PM | Updated September 08. 2020 7:17PM

By Claire Bessette   Day staff writer

 c.bessette@theday.com   Bessettetheday


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Norwich — The children were taller, sported colorful masks, and haven’t been to school for five months, but teachers and Principal Kristie Bourdoulous at the Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School easily recognized many of the returning students at the start of the first day of school Tuesday.

“It’s going good,” Daisy Lopez, special education paraeducator, said as she greeted families at the drop-off spot and directed them to classroom teachers who held up signs to gather their students. “They got tall, or I shrank, one or the other.”

School buses arriving at Moriarty were sparsely populated, as most parents drove their children to the right side of the parking lot to be checked in, confirm or receive their class assignment or correct possible registration errors. All were grateful for the good weather, as they awaited the signal to enter the building and begin the new school year in a very different way.

“We’re ready,” Bourdoulous said. “We’ve been getting ready for a long time.”

For the first day, parents were allowed to walk their children to where their class was gathered outside to take photos and meet their teachers.

“I think it’s interesting,” said Demaree Ritacco, grandmother of Moriarty kindergartener Emoni Blanco. Emoni was a bit nervous Tuesday morning, her grandmother said, changing her clothes three times and her hairstyle twice. The new student’s mother, Beth Ritacco, said she was “excited, scared.”

“I’m excited. She’s excited, so I’m excited,” said Christina Carter, mother of 6-year-old Liberty Carter, who started first grade Tuesday. “It was like Christmas Eve last night.”

Norwich is using a hybrid model at least to start the school year, with students divided into Cohort A to attend on Mondays and Tuesdays, with Cohort B learning remotely, and the two groups switching positions on Thursdays and Fridays. All students learn from home on Wednesdays to allow for a deep cleaning of the school buildings. The parents of about a third of Norwich students opted for remote learning full time.

Later Tuesday, Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow told the Board of Education that Tuesday's school opening was perhaps the smoothest in her 32 years in education.

"Only one bus concern," Stringfellow said. "That’s just unprecedented. In 32 years of opening schools, I did not imagine this to be the smoothest."

Stringfellow said the number of students choosing fully remote learning remained at about 30%, which seems comparable to other urban districts in the region. She said she hopes more parents will become more comfortable with in-person schooling, because she is concerned that fully remote learning could exacerbate the learning gap for some students.

She said she expects attendance numbers to increase as the school year settles down, but said having a staggered opening with one-third to half the students attending in person will give everyone a chance to get used to the new social distancing, one-way traffic patterns and cleaning safety protocols.

Overall, Norwich is down by about 300 total enrollment, and preschool registration is slow. Stringfellow said there was a bump in the number of parents choosing to remove their children and do home schooling, rather than remote learning. Kindergarten registration also has been slow, Stringfellow told the board.

Moriarty was thrust into some controversy in June, when the Board of Education reluctantly incorporated budget cuts that included eliminating cross-town transportation for students to attend the intradistrict magnet school. Parents of 140 students from outside the Moriarty neighborhood had a choice of providing their own transportation to the school or switching to their assigned elementary school.

Bourdoulous said despite the budget cut, enrollment at Moriarty increased from 380 to 425 as of Tuesday. The school will have 150 students in each hybrid cohort and 125 students in fully remote learning.

“It was reassuring,” Bourdoulous said, “because families wanted to stay with us.”

c.bessette@theday.com

 

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