Greece superintendent on elementary schoolers returning fully, ‘school is vibrant and full’

Back to School

GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — It feels like the first day of school all over again. That’s how students and staff in some districts describe the first day of a full reopening for elementary schools.

This comes after state guidance came out a week ago, saying elementary students can return fully with a minimum of three feet social distancing.

“I used to have only half the classroom and half my friends,” said Nathan Schirrmicher, fifth grader at Pine Brook Elementary School in Greece. “With everyone back – I feel like everything is normal again.”

He’s referring to learning cohorts for two days of the week as part of the hybrid learning model. But on Monday morning, that changed. He and many other students at this school walked into the building to full-sized classrooms of 22 students for the first time in over a year. Schirrmicher says some students he hasn’t seen in over a year.

Not just a full classroom – students can also attend for a full week. All this coming a week after the state gave the go-ahead.

“We have been building for this day and planning for this day,” said Principal of the school Beth Boily.

According to state guidance the students must maintain three feet of social distance.

Boily says the school has an entire reopening team, and they started planning for this as soon as they anticipated it was nearing a reality.

“Looking at everything from physical, to schedules, to cafeteria, arrival dismissal, instruction,” said Boily.

Superintendent Kathy Graupman says to just hear laughing as she walks through the hallways is an incredible joy. But, it’s hard to ignore the fact that not everyone can get this experience just yet.

“I really desperately want 13 and 4 year old, 15 year olds, 16 and 17 back in school too,” she said.

The state guidance says middle and high schoolers can only return back with three feet of social distancing if community transmission is low. If it’s not, they would have to be maintaining six feet of distancing, something many districts say isn’t possible.

Graupman says she doesn’t anticipate this guidance changing, but she’s hopeful something can happen soon – if community transmission can come down, or alternative methods are approved.   

Until then  – the focus is on keeping students in this building safe – not just physically but emotionally.

The pandemic has also contributed to a quick tech-savviness for younger ones. Students K-12 at the Greece Central School District are fully equipped with chrome books for class. Staff at the schools say they’ve played a crucial role since the start of the school year – and will continue to even as students return back.

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