Norwich — The year of promised change began Wednesday for the city's public schools.
The school district has been named an Alliance District by the state, potentially bringing an additional $1 million in funding, while the John B. Stanton School will receive $1.5 million as one of only four state Network Schools slated for major reforms.
Excited children and smiling parents converged on the Stanton School Wednesday morning as Principal Christine Gilluly rang a hand-held school bell and welcomed everyone to opening day.
Several parents said they support the changes in an effort to turn around Stanton's disappointing standardized test scores but aren't yet sure they will work. "We'll see," was a common refrain.
Some changes were evident Wednesday, with full-day kindergarten starting at Stanton. An extended learning day for all students starts in November.
On this perfect-weather first day, many parents preferred to drive their children to school, greet teachers and the principal and see their classrooms in person. Many new families still needed to register.
"Come on, Mom, let's go see my classroom!" 8-year-old Anthony Saucier coaxed as his mother, Danielle Fellows, greeted Principal Christine Gilluly and other parents.
Fellows said her son was thrilled to be back at school, and she looked forward to having more free time for herself now that school has started — a sentiment shared by several parents. But Fellows was uncertain about the reform efforts.
"We'll have to see how it works," Fellows said.
Joseph and Jackeline Ortiz brought their daughter, Leilani, 5, to Stanton for her first day at the new all-day kindergarten.
"It's great," Joseph Ortiz said of the reform efforts. "Our education hasn't been doing so well. To spend a little more time in school is good for the kids."
Stanton isn't the only school with changes immediately evident.
Teachers Memorial Middle School has its first new principal in 25 years, as Alexandria Lazzari succeeded William Peckham upon his retirement.
With additional funding from the city, the school system also this year was able to restore school resource officers at the two middle schools. Officer Michael McKinney greeted students at Teachers, while officer Anthony Gomes walked the hallways at Kelly Middle School.
"It's a bright sunny day," McKinney said. "It's cool, and they're great kids."