Classrooms and hallways buzzed again today with students returning for the City School District of New Rochelle’s transition to a hybrid model. After 25 days of distance learning¸ the first major wave of students returned to schools throughout the District.
“I feel a little nervous, but I feel excited,” second-grader Robert Halle said as he arrived at Henry Barnard Early Childhood Center with his father Justin and first-grade sister Emma.
Inside, teacher Judy Badillo helped students space themselves – “Six feet! Remember six feet!” – and walk down the hall in a line.
“We’re so thrilled to have students back in the classrooms,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero. “The first day went smoothly. Students, teachers and staff settled immediately into what will become their new routines, at least for now. This shows that we are prepared for the next phases of our hybrid model. It shows that we can transition seamlessly if we trust the process and don’t rush the process.”
Nine schools, all but New Rochelle High School, welcomed back students today in Phase I of the plan. Pre-K through grade 3 plus grade 6 returned, as did some specialized programs: Applied Behavior Analysis, Positive Alternative Techniques and Life Skills.
Grades 4, 5 and 8 return next Monday, October 26. Grade 7 returns November 2. NRHS is scheduled to welcome back students in grades 9-12 on November 9.
Teachers, principals and others were happy to see the students in person for the first time since school buildings closed in mid-March because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“It feels fantastic to have them back,” said Franco Miele, Principal of William B. Ward Elementary School. “You could see the smiles; everybody was so excited. It was wonderful.”
The months away had weighed on the students as well. Kristel Lushi, a second-grader at Barnard, was clear about what she missed most.
“My teachers!” she said.
Saadiq Dante, another Barnard second-grader, greeted a friend the moment he arrived with his father and younger brother to await entry to the building.
“He’s happy to see his buddy,” said the father, Mahamadou Dante. “And they needed to get out of the house.”
The student population of each school is split in two. Each group will come in two days a week and will learn remotely three days. (On Wednesdays, everyone learns from home.) That makes it easier to maintain social distance in the hallways and in classrooms where desks have been widely spaced.
“They’re all following the rules, wearing their masks,” said Alana Fajardo, a first-grade teacher at Ward. “We did a hand-washing practice and they all nailed it.”
“Students bring life and energy into the building,” said Dr. Tawanda Robinson, Principal of Isaac E. Young Middle School. “So it was a good feeling to have them back.”