Essex teachers welcome back students for first day of school

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 7:23 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 7:51 AM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Many aspects of the typical school experience that changed or were removed last school year because of COVID precautions are back this year. But a student’s age may determine how different the first day of school looks and feels.

Regardless of the restrictions, educators across the Essex Westford School District are ready to see smiling faces again.

“I could not enjoy what I do more than the connections I make with my colleagues and my students,” said Erin Schmitt, an art teacher at Essex High School.

“They are all just in their little masks and you just say good morning and they wave and smile and you can see the smile in their eyes,” said Timiny Bergstrom, a math intervention specialist at the Summit Street School in Essex Junction.

Diana Smith, the district’s COVID coordinator, says masks are on, cleanings will still be happening regularly and seating charts are still in place for contact tracing.

“We have been through a year of COVID now and we know how to keep it out of the school the best we can,” Smith said.

But unlike last year, there will be no health checks at the door, and classrooms will be full.

“It’s going to look like a normal school day,” she said.

Classes with shared tools, like band and art are back, with cleanings in between, but there are still some restrictions. Assemblies and most field trips are on hold.

Students in the high school who are eligible for vaccinations will have some added flexibility. Younger kids who can’t get the vaccine yet have some more restrictions.

The high school added blocks of lunch to keep students from crowding, but some younger schools will still eat in classrooms. Numbers and spacing are monitored closely, and eating outside is always an option.

Teachers say they don’t mind jumping the hurdles, they just want their students back.

“This year, for me personally, is more exciting than any other year because it was taken away from us last year -- seeing our kiddos five days a week,” said Rosalind Hutton, a health and P.E. teacher.

From pre-K to high school science and art to physical education, teachers say they will do the extra cleanings and give the extra mask reminder. While they all say learning in person is better, there are a lot of other added benefits to being in school, as well.

“With my students and making better connections with my students and just making it feel more like we are back to normal,” said Mary Krug, a science teacher at Essex High School.

“In-person instruction is just going to be awesome for our kids, awesome for our families,” Hutton said.

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