MONROE, CT — Children arrived at Monroe’s three elementary schools Monday morning, coming from buses and parent drop-offs, as a much smaller number of their classmates opted to log into their computers for remote learning from home. It was the first day of full in-person learning for grades K to five this year.
“For the staff, it was technically our third first day of the year,” Acting Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza told the Board of Education at its meeting Monday night. “But the principals reported that there was a sense of excitement with everyone together for the first time in a long time.”
Under the hybrid model, students split into two groups at the beginning of the year as a precaution amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with one group learning in school and the other remotely on different days of the week. As a result, school staffers greeted students in person on their first day in their building twice on the week of Sept. 1.
The State of Connecticut left the call on when to fully reopen schools to superintendents of schools. Kobza received guidance from the state department of education and the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and discussed the issue with the town’s health director, before determining the health metrics should allow Monroe do a reopening for the lower grades.
Working on the weekend
Barriers for every desk was an added precaution before the full opening of the elementary schools. On Friday, the first delivery of the personal protective equipment (PPE) arrived at Fawn Hollow Elementary School around 2:30 p.m., according to Kobza.
Volunteers installed the desk barriers at Monroe, Stepney and Fawn Hollow elementary schools until close to 10 p.m., then came back to finish the job on Saturday morning. Kobza said all of the work wrapped up around 5:30 p.m.
“People gave significantly of their time to employ this additional mitigation strategy for our students to come into the safest environment we can provide,” Kobza said.
During Monday’s school board meeting, he took time to thank many of the volunteers by name. Kobza also praised teachers for grades K to 12 for taking on the challenging task of paying attention to both students in their classrooms and students online.
“One thing that’s coming loud and clear is our teachers are working incredibly hard,” he said. “It’s incredibly difficult. I know I’ve asked a lot of them. I really want to extend my appreciation to them for making it happen today.”
Seeing all their friends
Kobza said favorable weather allowed for outdoor activities at Monroe, Stepney and Fawn Hollow Elementary schools on Monday.
“The kids were thrown off a little bit when they first got there, to see the extra PPE in the form of desk shields, but like they do, they acclimated really quickly,” Kobza said.
He said parents he encountered at Stepney that morning all seemed “pretty happy.”
“I think it went very well, from a parent’s perspective,” said Chairwoman Donna Lane, whose daughter goes to Monroe Elementary School.
Lane said her daughter was excited to step off the bus and see the rest of her friends. “She had such a great experience,” Lane said.
Shannon Monaco, a board member, recalled seeing the smiles on the faces of some of her friends’ children. “They were just ecstatic,” Monaco said.
“It seems like a big score with social, emotional and mental health,” Vice Chairman George A. King, III, said of the benefits young children receive from in-person learning.
Jeff Fulchino, a board member and a Stepney parent, said, “I was impressed with how well it went today. Everybody’s done an incredible job of recognizing the challenges we face and then addressing them.”