'A luxurious trial run'

Madeline Hughes, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
·2 min read

Apr. 8—ANDOVER — Walking down the hall and checking in with children on their second day back to fuller classrooms at Bancroft Elementary, Principal Michelle Costa hears things are going "great" for one of her students.

"'Great!' That's better than your usual 'good,'" Costa responded with a smile on her face.

One of Bancroft's social workers, Jen Cann, made the same observation Tuesday.

"When we ask the students how they are doing, they add a 'very' to being good," she said.

"There's an energy that comes with being together in-person," she added. "It's been two days, but I've felt that with all the students I've worked with."

On Monday, students at Bancroft and the four other elementary schools in Andover returned to full-time in-person learning after having been in a hybrid model since August.

Kindergarten and first-graders had already returned to four days in-person, but their time expanded this week with every other elementary school grade coming back as well. The classrooms are fuller to accommodate more students, however, they still are able to maintain their 3 feet of distance, which is required by the state.

The elementary schools across the district have even been able to accommodate the completely remote students, offering them the opportunity to come back to class. At Bancroft about 30 children who were in the completely "remote academy" this year are now in school with their same teachers, Costa said. Some remote teachers came back to their classrooms to allow remote students to join them in-person if they wanted, she explained.

"It's much easier to manage the kids when they are in the classroom rather than at home," said Amy Fletcher, whose second-grade class returned to all in-person Monday. "When they are home there isn't as much you can say besides, 'Come back to your computer.'"

Coming back this year, despite being more than two-thirds over with the school year, has been "a luxurious trial run," Costa said.

"It's such a luxury to have this time" before the next school year starts, she said.

"Some stuff has worked. Some stuff we've had to change," she said. "We don't know exactly what to expect when the fall comes, but we know we can make it work."

She said the pandemic has been an example of how resilient people can be.

Now with everyone who wanted to be back in school five days a week, the planning begins for the end-of-year celebrations, Costa said.

There will be a fifth-grade celebration, track and field days, and the kindergarten play, even though they will look different because of social distancing measures," she said. "We always have another challenge ahead of us, so now we think about how we reimagine those."