First day of school goes smoothly despite changes, challenges

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Julie Kelley does a temperature scan as screening begins. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted

The day that many have been waiting for and  — and somewhat dreading — arrived Tuesday as most Green Mountain District students reported to their classes to begin a strikingly different school year.

By most accounts, the results were good and several parents said that their children were excited to return to school.

“Overall things worked but we will need to fine tune things over the coming days,” said Chester-Andover Elementary’s Assistant Principal Kevin Fay. “The important thing is that we maintained a safe environment inside and outside school for our kids and staff. We’ve done a lot of planning with that as the goal.”

CAES students arriving by foot and by bus after screenings

Children arrived in three ways at CAES. Some came by bus and as they already had the required health and temperature check before boarding, those children went directly into the school. A few who live closer to the school walked or biked in – with a parent or guardian – to a table by the driveway for their health check. Mostly though, children arrived at school by car and that became the issue of the day.

“There will be some things that will not go as planned,” said Fay, “and we’ll find places to improve in the first couple of days.” One such problem at CAES was the backup of traffic from the school parking lot and driveway out onto Main Street in both directions.

An eastbound truck driving around the backup as a crossing guard directs traffic

With cars lining up to turn into the already full driveway, a school crossing guard began directing those who were not coming to the school around the holdup. For the better part of half an hour, there were lines in both directions with cars and trucks driving around the blockage.

Lauren Fierman, superintendent of Two Rivers Supervisory Union, explained that about 70 percent of children who normally ride the school bus were coming by car, which accounted for the extra traffic. Fierman said the school would work toward a solution.

With its long driveway and two drop-off lanes, Green Mountain High had none of the traffic problems, but an influx of new students kept health screeners busy.

An example of a distanced classroom at Green Mountain High

“We’ve got 70 students doing virtual learning – but with the kids from Ludlow and Mount Holly we still have 300 in the building,” said Interim Principal Mike Ripley. The building is still large enough to practice the distancing adopted by the district.

Before entering the building, everyone was greeted by Fierman and got a shot of hand sanitizer.

At a TRSU board meeting later in the evening, Ripley noted that there were few problems with students complying with what was asked of them, saying that he had to speak with more students about wearing hats in the auditorium than about not wearing masks.

Arriving on foot, a CAES student gets a temperature before school

Fierman noted that no one was turned away because of a health screening, “but we did have an issue with what’s considered an acceptable mask.”

“All in all, it went smoother than expected,” said Ripley.

Fay agreed, calling the staff “resilient and professional.”

“The community can feel good knowing that their children are in good hands,” said Fay.

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  1. Julie Kelley says:

    Day 2 went very smoothly. CAES added screeners for those arriving in cars and sped up the 3 required questions for each student by having the COVID symptoms in print form. There were no backups onto Main St. and all students arriving on time were in the building by the official 8am start time. A one-day learning curve isn’t bad in an unprecedented situation. Thanks to all the parents and students for their cooperation and a celebratory high five to those kindergarteners who started their school careers yesterday!