Essex teachers welcome students back on first day of school

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) – A lot of things that were changed or deleted last school year are back this year. But a student’s age can determine how different the first day of school is. Whatever restrictions are in place, educators in the Essex Westford School District are ready to see smiling faces again.

“I couldn’t appreciate what I do more than the connections I make with my colleagues and students,” said Erin Schmitt, art teacher at Essex High School.

“They’re all just in their little masks and you just say hello and they wave and smile and you can see the smile in their eyes,” said Timiny Bergstrom, math intervention specialist at Summit St. School.

The district COVID coordinator says the masks are in place, cleanings will still take place on a regular basis, and seating charts are still in place for contact tracing.

“We’ve been through a year of COVID now and we know how to keep it out of school as best we can,” said Diana Smith.

But unlike last year, there will be no health checks at the door and the classrooms will be full.

“It’s going to look like a normal school day,” she said.

Things with shared tools like band and art are back, with cleanups in between. But there are still some limitations, assemblies are still pending, as are field trips outside the walking distance.

High school students who are eligible for vaccines will have some additional flexibility. Younger children who cannot yet be vaccinated have additional restrictions. The high school has added lunch blocks to keep students from rushing, but some younger schools will continue to eat in classrooms. Numbers and spacing are closely watched, and eating out is always an option. Teachers say they don’t mind jumping the obstacles, they just want their students to come back.

“This year, for me personally, is more exciting than any other year because it was taken from us last year; seeing our children five days a week, ”said Rosalind Hutton, health and physical education teacher.

From kindergarten to high school science, art to physical education, teachers say they will do the extra cleanings and give the extra mask reminder. While they all say it’s best to learn in person, there are plenty of other added benefits to being in school as well.

“With my students and building better relationships with my students and just making it look like we’re back to normal,” said Mary Krug, science teacher at Essex High School.

“Face-to-face teaching is going to be great for our kids, great for our families,” Hutton said.

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