'We're going to have a great year': Trumbull schools welcome students back

TRUMBULL — Frenchtown Elementary School Principal Gina Prisco, walkie talkie in hand and with a blue mask with a Frenchtown logo over her face, got in a brisk morning jog on Wednesday, Trumbull’s first day of school. Between greeting children getting off the bus at the front entrance and being dropped off by parents at the back, she was never in one place for more than a few seconds.

It was hectic, but she’s used to it.

“That’s pretty much how every day goes. Especially the first few days,” Prisco said before hurrying over to greet a parent dropping off her daughter.

“It’s so good to see you. I love your braids. All right, we’re going to have a great year,” Prisco said.

Prisco said the school year is off to a good start, as normal as possible under the circumstances. This is the first school year since 2018-19 where the school system in Trumbull will not have remote learning. Both Trumbull schools staff and parents have expressed confidence that the students are well protected.

Karen Mena stood at the front entrance of the school, waiting for her daughter’s bus. She said things were less stressful this year compared to last year. Last year was filled with unknowns, she said. The vaccines had yet to arrive and lockdowns were still in effect. But now that she knows more about the virus, she said she isn’t too concerned.

But while she was thankful her daughter, entering second grade, could return to school in-person full-time, she knew the situation could change quickly.

“I’m very relieved, but I know that it might all come crashing down if the numbers get worse as far as cases. So, hoping for the best,” Mena said.

Prisco said the students would continue to learn using what she called social emotional learning this year. She said students learn best when they feel they are valued and welcomed in the school. She said the theme for this year was for students to “be all that they can be.” That replaced last year’s theme, which was, “A for now plan, not a forever plan.”

Over at Daniels Farm Elementary School, Principal Gary Kunschaft explained said that were not expressing a lot of concern over the delta variant of COVID-19. The majority of the staff is vaccinated, and schools had not seen high levels of transmission during the last school year, he said.

Kunschaft said he wasn’t sure what the end result will be, but he was confident that the school system had prepared as much as possible.

“I can’t tell you how that will play out with a new variant around. But our hope is that by doing everything we’re asked to do, we’re going to maximize our chances of success,” Kunschaft said.

One Frenchtown parent admitted he was apprehensive, but not because of COVID. Darnell Banks had just dropped off his daughter at the back entrance. She’s entering kindergarten and he said he wanted her to have a good first day. He said he was sure the school would be safe.

He talked to her the night before and told her to be good.

“She’s a little four year old. So it’s just ‘keep your voice down and listen to what the teacher says and pay attention and always be nice to your classmates,’ Banks said.

Mena said her daughter had experienced typical first-day nerves the night before, too. She said her daughter wondered if her classmates would like her, or what would happen if she forgot an answer when called by her teacher, or if she didn’t do well on a test. Mena had reassured her.

It felt good, Mena said, that her daughter worried about that instead.

“She’s not thinking about, what if we get sick? She’s just focused on the regular things. So yeah, it is comforting,” Mena said.