Recorder: "Young students, families thrilled to return to in-person learning in Greenfield"

Greenfield Public Schools in the News

Young students, families thrilled to return to in-person learning in Greenfield

By ANITA FRITZ

Staff Writer

Published: 4/6/2021 5:40:10 PM

GREENFIELD — Eight-year-old Preston Charboneau was “super excited” last week, when he realized he’d be heading back to in-person learning at Federal Street School on Monday after more than a year at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He was so excited when I picked him up at the end of the day,” said his mother, Amy Charboneau. “Everything went well. He had no problem with wearing a mask, because he said they had plenty of breaks during the day. His day was awesome.”

Students from preschool to fourth grade — at Newton School, Federal Street School, the Discovery School at Four Corners and the Academy of Early Learning — celebrated their return to in-person learning this week, though parents and guardians were given the option to keep their children in remote learning through the end of the school year. According to Greenfield School Department Interim Superintendent Judith Houle, about 10 to 13 percent of families chose to stay remote.

Next, fifth-graders through high school students will return on April 28.

Preston, a second-grader, told his parents that he was very happy and excited to meet the other students in person, because he has only known them on a screen.

Amy Charboneau, who welcomed six other children into her home and oversaw a remote learning pod for several months consisting of Preston and his friends, said she was comfortable with Monday’s return to in-person learning, for the most part.

“I worried a little about how their days were going,” she said. “I want to see some parts of their lives go back to normal, whatever that ends up being.”

Charboneau said she felt comfortable bringing her son back to school because Federal Street School had sent home newsletters explaining every detail about how in-person learning would be for children, what they needed to bring to school each day and what would happen in different situations.

“It really put our minds at ease,” she said.

Likewise, Corissa Trip said she felt comfortable sending her three sons, Isaac, 10, Elias, 7, and Asher, 4, back to school on Monday. Isaac and Elias attend the Discovery School at Four Corners where they are in fourth and second grade, respectively. Asher spends a half day (two and a half hours) at the Academy of Early Learning.

“Isaac had a wonderful day,” his mother said. “He walked out of the school in the afternoon absolutely glowing with happiness.”

Trip said her oldest son had the hardest time with remote learning because he is “so social.” He missed his friends terribly over the past year.

“I think he had the most fun at recess when he played soccer with his friends,” she said. “He told us he had a lot of fun, and felt very welcome and safe.”

Elias, she said, had a great day back, too, even though he thrived under the remote learning model.

“I was a little worried about him because he did great with remote learning — he’s a homebody, independent and enjoys being on his own,” she said. “He was very happy to go back, though. He loved the way the classroom was set up. Everyone had their personal space, but still got to be with friends.”

Trip said she was thrilled that Asher did so well. The 4-year-old has been attending preschool remotely.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but the teacher was amazing,” she said. “Everyone had already formed a bond, so I wasn’t too worried.”

She said her youngest son made a smooth transition from home to school, and eagerly asked every day leading up to Monday’s return if “today is the day.”

Her children’s return was bittersweet. Trip said though the past year has been quite a challenge with three children doing remote learning and the youngest needing her to be nearby constantly, everyone got into a groove and established a structured routine.

“This is going to be a big change,” she said. “But now I’ll have some time to focus on my 2-year-old daughter, Abigail.”

Ms. Silk at Newton School teachers her first graders

Photo credit: Paul Franz

On the other side of Greenfield, young students entered Newton School on Monday morning dressed fashionably with colorful, glittered and sequinned masks, laughing and “eye smiling.”

Newton School Principal Melodie Goodwin said she and her staff were thrilled to hear laughter in the halls of the school once again after being closed since mid-March 2020.

“Everything went great,” Goodwin said. “Parents had big smiles as they said good-bye to their kids outside.”

Goodwin said some of her class sizes are relatively large this year, averaging 24 students, but a number of families decided to stay remote. If any decide to return and there’s not enough room in a particular classroom, she said the school will improvise.

“Desks are nose-to-nose, which keeps students 6 feet apart,” she said. “Everyone is wearing a mask. If families decide to have their child return to in-person learning, the school will figure everything out while keeping all safe, and that could include using the cafeteria as a classroom to keep everyone distanced.

“All meals are grab-and-go and students are eating at their desks,” she added.

Goodwin said teachers were thrilled to see their students return to the classroom.

“The kids have grown so tall since we last saw them,” she said. “It’s good to have them back. Schools are traditionally community, family. The students had so much to say to each other. I’d walk by a classroom and hear chatting — what a wonderful sound.”

Interim Superintendent Houle served as a crossing guard at Federal Street School on Monday morning.

“It all went very smoothly,” she said of the first day back, adding that she visited all four schools that reopened. “People were so excited. Most of all, students were excited to be back with their classmates.”

Houle said pupils’ smiles were even evident through their face masks.

“Students lit up,” she said. “They got settled very quickly.”

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.