Milford teachers prepare for students’ return

MILFORD — Karen Money admits she’s nervous before the start of every school year.

The Orange Avenue School kindergarten teacher - along with fellow school district administrators and instructors - are a day away from the in-person return of students for full days of learning, and that has Money turning that anxiety into enthusiasm.

Money, even with so much experience, spent Monday preparing her room for the newest set of kindergartners to arrive Wednesday.

She says she still gets butterflies, but, in her role as kindergarten teacher, “I get excited because this is the first time these kids are experiencing school, and my goal for the end of the school year is to get them excited for school.”

One of the reasons why Money is excited students are back full time is because she is a big believer in play-based learning.

“These kids come in as babies, and throughout the year,” Money added. “I can see how they learn and become more independent as the year goes by,” she said.

This year, Money has 20 students in her class, which she said is a good sign of things slowly getting back to normal. For the 2021-22 school year, students and staff are back for a full day, in-school instruction five days a week.

Sara Calechnan, a first-grade teacher at Orange Avenue School, said she cannot wait for Wednesday morning.

“I’m excited for the new year and the new group of kids,” Calechnan said. “We are getting closer to a typical day, and it’s going to be great to have full-time days this year.”

Even though students and staff are going to be back in class full time, there are still COVID-19 protocols teachers must follow. Social distancing will again be necessary this year, but it will look a little different, teachers say.

Superintendent of School Anna Cutaia said in the classroom social distancing between a student and another student is three feet, but social distancing between a student and a teacher is still six feet.

“Our buses will be zoned once again. We will zone the buses so that students are assigned to particular areas at the bus,” Cutaia said.

Calechnan said having full days of instruction five days a week does make it easier for teachers.

“It’s nice, and the kids are happy overall to be here and to see each other in person,” Calechnan said.

Remote learning was a big part of the school year during 2020, but during 2021, it will not be the focus. Cutaia said that remote learning will be on a case-by-case scenario, and she recommends parents of immunocompromised students reach out to their school’s principal.