Hartford Public Schools welcomed students back into the classroom on Monday.
Pre-K through ninth grade students were able to return to full-time in-person learning on Monday. The district has been operating in "Orange Status" since November. The district is now moving back to a "Yellow Status" which includes five days of school per week for individuals who choose the in-person learning option.
"Being full time now, I feel like I'm able to get more out of school, and more out of my learning environment," said Josiah Perez-Henry, a junior at Classical Magnet School.
For the last couple of months, Josiah has been enrolled in the hybrid learning model and told NBC Connecticut he's had his share of hard days.
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"Being at home felt very constricting and it felt as though I couldn't learn as much as I was learning full-time," said Perez-Henry.
Prior to the decision, school leaders were consulting with health officials about what needed to happen to get students safely back in the classroom.
"Our schools have low positivity rates for staff and for our students and the fact that we've been able to implement our safety mitigations strategies helped with our decision," said Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, superintendent for Hartford Public Schools. "We heard loud and clear that families needed to have that option so we worked to the best of our ability to provide options to give families that option."
The district is still finalizing plans to determine when remote-only learners will return to the classroom but is expected to make an announcement within the coming weeks.
Shakira Perez is an English teacher at Classical Magnet School and said being in school is both beneficial and a necessity for students.
"Interacting, discussing, and learning with other students is what you're supposed to do in a school and both teachers and students benefit from that system," said Perez. "You build these bonds with students and you build this rapport with students and they're are so much a part of the process."
The district will be vaccinating teachers on Thursday and Friday at Saint Francis Hospital. PreK through eighth grade staff at schools will be a part of the first cohort to receive their vaccinations. Vaccinations will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The schools a part of Cohort 1 will be operating on a half-day schedule to ensure staff has an opportunity to get their shots.
The state of Connecticut has allotted 1,500 doses specifically for Hartford Public School staff.