The following appeared in The Republican-American - https://www.rep-am.com/
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WOODBURY — There was lots of excitement and a sense of optimism among staff in Region 14 schools Tuesday as students returned to class.
The region’s schools in Woodbury and Bethlehem were the first in the state to close March 10 after a student had contact with a grandparent who tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, the district prepared for the eventual return, which came Tuesday morning.
“It was like Christmas,” said Superintendent Joseph Olzacki. “It’s like after all the preparation, the dinner was made, the presents had been purchased and wrapped, all that was left was for the children to come back, and today they came back.”
Nonnewaug High and Woodbury Middle schools are operating on a hybrid model, with half the students from 7th to 12th grades switching between online and in-person classes.
Woodbury Middle School Principal Bill Nemec gave high marks for his students, who started the day somewhat quiet, but began to loosen up as the hours went by. Nemec said kids are resilient and are able to adapt to this “new normal.”
Desks and chairs were spaced farther apart and hallways and stairwells were marked with one-way directional arrows designed to ensure students stay a safe distance apart. Cafeteria tables were sectioned off with plastic partitions and students were given the option to take their lunch inside or outside of the building.
At Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury, students disembarked school buses and were greeted by staff members, some with tears in their eyes.
“It feels so good to see the kids back in the hallways. I could just cry,” said teacher Sarah Bartholomew. “You know, we miss them. It’s not the same through a screen. I am a special education teacher, so I’ve been one-on-one with my kids this whole time (on the computer). But when you see them in front of you, it’s like everything is going to be OK.”
Mitchell Principal Andrew Komar said the key to success in this new era is to be flexible and have a positive attitude. And, he added, there are a lot of positives that have come from this age of quarantine. Families are growing closer and people seem to be more appreciative of the simpler things in life, he said.
“I’m more excited today than I’ve been in the past six months,” Komar said.