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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Groton students return to school

    Third grader Robert Cabanban, 7, is greeted by Principal Jamie Giordano as he walks into the building for the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, at Claude Chester Elementary School in Groton. The district is reopening under a hybrid model for the 2020-21 school year. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Groton — Claude Chester Elementary School Principal Jamie Giordano stood Tuesday morning outside the school entrance and enthusiastically greeted students wearing backpacks and masks as they exited school buses and cars for their first day of school.

    “How are you guys?” she said. “Come on in!”

    Staff members also welcomed the students and helped guide them to their classrooms. Paraprofessional Denise James said Tuesday was a huge change, and the staff couldn’t high-five the kids as in typical years, but the kids seemed really excited — and she was, too.

    “The first day of school is my favorite time of the year,” James said

    Groton students started the school year on Tuesday in a hybrid model after months of distance learning last year. 

    Under the hybrid model, students, separated into cohorts, will attend school two days a week and learn remotely three days a week. Superintendent Michael Graner said the families of about 25% of students in Groton are opting to follow a full distance learning model in which they learn remotely each day.

    All middle school students are learning remotely this week, as the new middle school is slated to open Sept. 14.

    Claude Chester, as well as other schools across the district, outfitted their buildings to follow safety protocols, Giordano said. Among the precautions, the school has a recess rotation and each classroom will have its own recess equipment, and arrows have been placed on the hallway floors to direct people. Students will eat lunch in their classroom, and each desk will have a screen.

    The school revamped its drop-off arrangements, so both school bus drivers and parents driving their kids to school follow the same route to drop off students at the entrance.

    Giordano said they would see what works and what didn’t on the first day, then tweak plans.

    “We just couldn’t wait to see the kids,” she added about the first day.

    Claude Chester, Mary Morrisson, and S.B. Butler schools are slated to close at the end of the year, as two new elementary schools are planned to open in the fall of 2021, so Giordano said the school community will be celebrating the school this year.

    Giordano said it’s “bittersweet” for the community, because the school has been there for so long and so many people are connected to it. “It’s such a special place,” she said, adding that it’s that way because of the staff, students and teachers and everyone involved.

    Paraprofessional Rina Shah also said she was excited to be back and see the students: “I’m happy to be back with the kids,” she said.

    Elizabeth Levander was dropping off her daughter, a fourth grader, and her son, a second grader, on Tuesday morning.

    “It’s a bittersweet moment because you don’t want your kids to grow up but you’re happy that they’re taking steps to flourish and become who they are as people,” Levander said.

    As a single, working mom, she said she doesn’t have the option of keeping her kids at home full-time, and her son also is a hands-on learner. She said she is happy they are going back to school and thinks everyone is taking the necessary safety precautions.

    “I pray that eventually school life can go back to normal for everybody, but it’s not going to be overnight,” she said. “It’s going to be something that happens slowly, and right now we all just have to work as a team and a community to help (keep) kids happy and healthy, and we just hope for the best.”

    Florentina Rivera dropped off her son, a fourth grader, and her nephew, a first grader, for their first day of school. While she said distance learning last year was a trying experience since she doesn’t do that well with the internet, she believes it was the best thing to do because no one wants to see their child sick.

    She said she was happy to take the students back to school this year, and she thinks they will be OK with the hybrid model of two days of school and three days learning at home, even if learning on the remote days is a little slower since it’s not the same as being in school.

    Rivera said she hopes it gets better next year or sooner and they can return to school full time.

    Her nephew, Christopher Peraza, said he was “a little bit nervous” to start the school year but also felt happy to be able to see his friends.

    “It’s been a long time that I didn’t meet my friends,” he said.

    k.drelich@theday.com

    Elizabeth Levander adjusts the mask on her son Takai, 7, starting second grade, before he walks into the building for the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, at Claude Chester Elementary School in Groton. The district is reopening under a hybrid model for the 2020-21 school year. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Sylvia Redrovan talks with her daughter Heidi Chacon, 4, before meeting her kindergarten teacher for the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, at Claude Chester Elementary School in Groton. The district is reopening under a hybrid model for the 2020-21 school year. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Florentina Rivera walks with her nephew Christopher Peraza, left, 6, and son Devin Fuentes, 8, to Claude Chester Elementary School in Groton on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, for the fist day of school. The district is reopening under a hybrid model for the 2020-21 school year. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Principal Jamie Giordano greets students coming off a bus for the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, at Claude Chester Elementary School in Groton. The district is reopening under a hybrid model for the 2020-21 school year. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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