Students are back to school in East Hartford and Glastonbury.
Wednesday is the first day and students and parents said this is the most normal they have felt in the last three school years.
Riley Carter, a first-grade student in East Hartford, was excited to show off her new lunchbox and backpack.
“I like specials and I like to go to gym and I’m very excited to be at school with all of my friends,” she said.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
Riley’s mom said her daughter is both happy and nervous to return to the classroom.
“She did so good last year and last year was her first in-person in school, interacting with all her friends. She did so good so I just can’t wait to see the development and what else she learns and comes homes and tells me. It’s exciting for me as well.” Breanne Hill said.
James Faulk was also looking forward to his son Elijah starting second grade.
“I feel pretty excited. I’m happy for him. He’s growing and learning and getting smarter every year,” James Faulk said.
East Hartford Superintendent Dr. Nathan Quesnel described the first day of school as being like Super Bowl Sunday and he said the staff was excited to welcome students back this year.
“We are just thrilled to have our kids back in class and back in our schools, back in our hallways. And, you know, certainly the past two years have made us all step back and appreciate moments like this a little bit more.” Dr. Nathan Quesnel, superintendent of schools in East Hartford, said.
East Hartford schools hired 55 teachers and said they are fully staffed and ready to go.
“There's just so much energy and hope. And I think, and I think the real word is appreciation and gratitude. The abilities to see each other's faces, the abilities to touch the abilities to be in spaces together is something that I don't know if we ever appreciate as much as we do right now,” Quesnel said.
Schools have dealt with restrictions over the last couple of years because of COVID-19 and the districts do have new guidelines from the state Department of Health and they are focused on keeping students in schools. That includes wearing a mask for people who have mild symptoms but test negative.
See more on the guidelines here.
Dr. Alan Bookman, superintendent of schools in Glastonbury, is excited to have new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Graphic Arts and Math) labs.
The school district hired new teachers and converted some of the traditional shop and automotive classes into the new labs. Bookman said all the classes are full and students are excited.
School districts face another challenge in hiring enough teachers and having people they can rely on to substitute.
“I don't think there’s any question about that. Many of our substitutes from last year are now full-time teachers in other school systems, so we looked at our list and we said there, we will really struggle as far as substitutes are concerned. And we struggled last year too. We have given the go ahead for our principals to hire some additional full-time paraprofessionals who are willing to substitute as needed,” Bookman said.
Of course, some children will have some anxiety and experts have advice on how you can help your child.
“So, for some kids, they may start to get more fussy, they may start to express more worries, they may start to get a little bit more irritable. And for other kids, you may start to see more things like tummy aches, headaches, problems sleeping, so you know your kid the best. Look to see how they may be different then how they normally are, and then trying to see if there's opportunities to create a schedule, to build some normalcy to reduce stress during the day,” Dr. Melissa Santos, Connecticut Children’s division head of pediatric psychology, said.
She recommends that parents and guardians create that routine at home and try to eliminate stress, such as where the backpack is, and build a normal bedtime routine for your children. She also said it’s important to check in with your child every day.
Ask what was the good of the day, what was not so good? What are you most looking forward to about tomorrow? What are you least looking forward to?
She said you may start to learn what the world is like for your child and how you can best be helpful to them.
Sometimes kids just want us to listen, she said, and they’re not looking for parents to fix anything or give them solutions.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.