'So thrilled:' First day back at Westport's Coleytown Elementary School

WESTPORT — Warm smiles, some familiar faces and plenty of hand sanitizer welcomed students to a new school year at Coleytown Elementary school on Tuesday.

Students stepped off buses and out of cars with their back packs and a colorful assortment of masks for their first day back. Several teachers and administrators shared their joy with families as they welcomed everybody outside the school.

“We are so excited for this,” Janna Sirowich, principal of Coleytown Elementary School, said. “No one becomes an educator to work at home without seeing children. We are so thrilled to welcome everyone back.”

Sirowich said staff has spent the past two weeks discussing student engagement, health and safety protocols and building relationships.

“This is the day everyone has been waiting for — to be able to see our children again in person,” she said.

Coleytown Elementary School, like other schools in the area, also provided a warm welcome to students new to not only the school system but the town as well. The town’s public school system saw a spike in enrollment over the summer as out-of-state residents moved to Connecticut.

“At Coleytown, we had 44 new students actually come this year,” Sirowich said.

Coleytown parents reached out to new families over the summer to answer questions about the school, she said. A new family orientation last week also gave students a tour of the building while parents spoke with a former Coleytown Elementary PTA president.

Sirowich said new students are paired with buddies in school for support and to help with any questions. The school will also host a variety of new family activities throughout the next month, she said.

“We’re really excited to have all the new families here and all the new students here,” Sirowich said. “Coleytown is growing and we’re happy about that.”

Sirowich said parents and staff members set the temperature for the children.

“If we are modeling positivity and modeling that we are excited to come back, they feel that,” she said.

With the reopening of schools comes excitement and anxiety but a familiar atmosphere will help to comfort families as they navigate the new school year, she said. Once students are back in the building they can also see that their classrooms are largely not that different — despite some changes.

“Yes it’s different, but there’s a lot of things that are the same,” Sirowich said. “I think that’s going to help our children as they start the school year.”