NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Wednesday marked the first day of school at New Britain Public Schools, and the sights of students and families together again provided plenty of sunshine for staff even as it rained during drop-off.
“We thought in March of 2020, we were closing for two weeks, here we are 18 months later," said Assistant Superintendent Michael Foran.
“It’s like prepping for a party for months and finally the guests are arriving," said Superintendent Nancy Sarra.
Students also shared that excitement after a year of hybrid or remote learning.
“I feel like being in-person is going to be more engaging for learning and for exciting," said Alyana Martinez, a student at New Britain High School.
However, no first day of school is complete without some jitters, and Sarra said she was feeling those a little more than usual this year as all students return to full in-person learning.
“Because we’re trying to find that balance of making sure all kids can come for their mental health and ensuring that we’re going to keep them safe physically for the variant, from the virus," said Sarra.
To achieve that goal, COVID-19 mitigation strategies will remain in place.
Face masks are mandatory, and three feet of social distancing is still in place whenever possible. Additionally, students will hand sanitize on a regular schedule multiple times per day.
If a student, staff member, volunteer, or visitor has been present in school and has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, the school nurse and/or the building principal will contact the nursing supervisor and the superintendent. The nursing supervisor will notify the New Britain Public Health Department. Confidentiality will be maintained in accordance with FERPA and other applicable privacy laws.
“For students who are 12 and above, this year we’ll also be asking families of close contacts if their child has been fully vaccinated. Children who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine. For our students who are under the age of 12 and have not been fully vaccinated, they will need to quarantine and we’ll let them know how many days are remaining until they can return back to school," said Nursing Supervisor Jacqueline Maddy.
If a student does have to quarantine, all teachers will continue will continue to maintain Google Classrooms and Seesaw so students will have access to see their assignments, submit work and send questions to their teachers.
Schools are also working hard to support students' social and emotional wellbeing with on-site mental health associates and counselors. Students at the high school also have access to the new Student Assistance Center.
“We do conflict transformation, anger management, equity justice, anti-racism training," said School Counselor Geno Ayala.
When it comes to vaccinations, all Connecticut state employees and staff of all childcare facilities and preK-12 schools statewide must receive at least one dose of a vaccine, per an executive order by Gov. Lamont. Sarra said New Britain school staff is still in the process of reporting their vaccination status to the district.
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