Norwich Public School students began the return to school Tuesday on a hybrid model. Students in Cohort A were back in the classroom for the first time since March.
"We are well-prepared and we are just so happy the kids are back," said Sarah Duso, principal of Wequonnoc Elementary School in Taftville.
About 100 students filled the halls of Wequonnoc Elementary Tuesday. Students returned to a lot of changes including mandatory masks, social distancing, and a color-coded one-way traffic flow for students.
"I really like it and I am happy," said J'Nyih Jenkins, a second-grade student.
While some students were adapting to changes, other students were preparing for entirely new classrooms.
"It was a very, very hard decision to make," Melissa Cann told NBC Connecticut, explaining why she decided to opt out of the hybrid model of learning. Her five children, ranging in age from college to elementary school, are enrolled in full distance learning.
Cann said that she made the decision for medical reasons and for the safety of her youngest son, Dominic, a third grade Norwich Public Schools student.
"Dominic has immune deficiency and he also has a rare genetic auto inflammatory disease," said Cann.
With Dominic being at a higher risk for contracting a serious case of COVID-19, Cann said that she felt as though she had no choice but to keep her children home for distance learning.
“It was kind of disappointing because it has taken away his normalcy in life," said Cann.
The family is still working to make distance learning fun. Cann made each of her children a personalized desk area for learning.
“I am hoping that he will stay focused to meet his new teacher and see who is in his class," said Cann.
Distance learning numbers vary across Norwich Public Schools. Rates range from about 18% of students enrolled in full online learning at one school, to about 34% of students at the school with the highest percentage.
Distance learning students will get devices next week and begin classes, with everyone live-streaming by September 21.
Duso said that NPS is building off distance learning from the spring, adding more structure and more opportunity to connect students who are at home with students in the classroom.
“We are looking to really buddy them up with someone in class so they can start having these social times and social hours as well," said Duso.