NORWICH — There were a lot of smiles, plenty of hugs and a few tears Wednesday as Norwich Public Schools opened the new school year.
Superintendent Abby Dolliver said in the 2018-19 academic year, the district will focus on all aspects of the educational experience extending beyond books and lessons.
"This year we will focus on social and emotional learning as well as student health and wellness. There is also going to be a strong academic focus, of course," she said.
At Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School, buses and cars rolled up just before 9 a.m., followed by a flood of new and returning students. There they were greeted by teachers and administrators, including the school's new principal, Kristie Bourdoulous.
Dolliver said Bourdoulous has been involved with Norwich schools and others, and said she thinks it's a perfect fit for Moriarty.
"She's been an educator for years," Dolliver said. "She has experience as a principal, and has worked in the district for years helping to develop curricula. She's perfect for this school."
Bourdoulous said she is excited for her new role at Moriarty, and said she hopes to promote a healthy learning atmosphere for all.
"Our goal is to foster a safe, happy and healthy teaching environment where teachers can teach and students can learn," she said.
Johanna Irizarry was among the parents dropping off their children for the first day of school. She and her third-grade daughter, Gia Margarita, are new to Norwich. They came to Connecticut from Puerto Rico after being displaced by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
"We lost a lot of documentation in the storm," Irizarry said. "But the school department has been so helpful in getting my daughter enrolled in school. The education here, the process, the people — it's been fantastic."
Third-grader Bryson Ochoa is also new to Norwich schools. He is starting at Moriarty after previously living in New York. He said he was excited to start the school year.
"I really like reading and science," Ochoa said. "I'm looking forward to meeting my teachers, and I hope to make a lot of new friends."
Magnet schools, such as Moriarty are public elementary schools of choice that are operated by the school district. Magnet schools feature specialized theme-based curriculum. At Moriarty, Dolliver said the school focuses on STEM education — with a particular emphasis on environmental studies.
"In addition to the regular curriculum, this school has a focus on environmental studies," Dolliver said. "There is a garden, a meadow, and classes are regularly held outdoors."