The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
‘Every year is just as exciting’
Students head back to classes to be held fully in person amid pandemic
MIDDLETOWN — It was a morning of elation for students and staff Thursday as the Lawrence Elementary School community welcomed children returning to classes for a new academic year.
With customized masks, new shoes, and backpacks brandishing pink bedazzles or Minecraft characters, students lined up to have their temperature taken before entering the building to ensure safety for all during the pandemic. Some nervously clung to their parents while others excitedly ran up to greet friends.
Jim Gaudreau in entering his 17th year as principal of Lawrence School. He was the first person to greet every student who arrived. “Every year is just as exciting,” he said.
This year differs from last in that all students are returning together rather than in cohorts, as was done during the height of the pandemic. School staff are well-prepared, the principal said.
Middletown Superintendent of Schools Michael Conner greeted his own son, Michael Jr., who is entering first grade. His mother, Viviana Conner, dropped
him off and posed for a family photo before waving goodbye to her husband and son.
“We’re super excited,” she said. “I know they’re taking all safety precautions.”
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, state Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, and Mayor Ben Florsheim were among those who stopped by for the occasion.
Bysiewicz outlined some of the COVID-19 safety precautions in place, including mandated masks, weekly screenings, and vaccine clinics for students age 12 and older that will be visiting districts across the state in the coming months.
The state worked hard to make sure kids could be back in person, she said, “We know that in-person learning is the most effective thing for these kids for their learning and development.”
Bysiewicz and two of her sisters attended Moody Elementary School across town, but one sister attended Lawrence. She said that the excitement in the air was the same as when she and her sisters were young.
“This gives me visions of going back to school at Moody,” Bysiewcz said.
Some of the 371 students returning to Lawrence were arriving for their first day of kindergarten.
Such was the case with Ashley Rivera’s son Cooper. “Last night, he was excited, but this morning, he was a little nervous,” Rivera said. Her mother, Cindy, couldn’t help feeling emotional.
“I’m going to cry,” Cindy Rivera said. She said she remembers carrying around a large, heavy video camera to capture her daughter Ashley’s first day of school. This time around, all she needed was her cell phone to capture the moment.
“I think he’ll do well,” Rivera said.
This was Florsheim’s third stop of the morning after greeting students at the high school and new Beman Middle School. He especially enjoyed the excitement alongside middle-graders entering the state-of-the-art $87.35 million facility.
“It’s been incredible,” Florsheim said.