Westport students 'excited to be back' for new school year

Photo of Amanda Cuda

WESTPORT — Usually, when Coleytown Middle School concludes its sixth-grade orientation, the incoming students rush out of the school and into their parents’ cars, eager to leave. But when this year’s orientation was held Monday, there was a different vibe, Coleytown Principal Kris Szabo said.

“They weren’t leaving,” she said. “We had to ask them to leave. I think the kids were really ready and excited to be back at school.”

Szabo said that feeling continued for Westport’s first day of school on Tuesday. According to Westport Public Schools, 5,274 students are enrolled in the district this year.

Late last week, the district’s superintendent released an updated list of back-to-school protocols, designed to protect teachers and students from COVID-19. These include requiring all visitors to Westport schools be vaccinated against the virus, and that teachers — even those who are vaccinated — remain masked during instruction.

At Coleytown, Szabo said she wasn’t aware of any protests or issues surrounding the rules about masking and other COVID protocols.

“I think the Westport community is very mindful about COVID,” she said. “Everyone wants all the children in school every day. If wearing a mask can keep them healthy and safe, I think people are willing to abide by that.”

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice said Westport had a “very successful first day of school,” and things seemed to go smoothly.

“The procedures we have in place to start the year in response to the pandemic were successful and students and staff were enthused to be back in the classroom,” he said. “As always, we will smooth out the operational nuances over the first few days such as transportation, and our new outdoor lunch opportunities for students, while tightening up transitions throughout the day for students.”

There was a particular buzz at Coleytown as this will be students first full year back in the building after it was closed for mold issues. It reopened in January after a $32 million remediation project, but this will be the first time in a while that Coleytown students have begun the school year in their own building.

The past few years, Coleytown staff and students shared space in the Bedford Middle School building, which was made more challenging by the pandemic. Despite all of the COVID protocols, Szabo and other Coleytown staff said this first day of school actually feels closer to “normal” than it has in a while.

“It’s so nice to start the year at Coleytown,” sixth-grade teacher Jocylyn Sadlon said. Sadlon, now in her 22nd year of teaching, said it’s also nice to have all her students in the classroom after more than a year of remote and hybrid teaching.

“It’s great to be in person and to have all of their faces looking at you,” she said. “It’s really special.”

Fellow sixth-grade teacher Stephanie Zamary said there was a similar enthusiasm in her classroom. “It’s been great,” she said. “The kids are so excited to be going back.”