How Norwalk schools are planning return to normalcy

NORWAY – “Normal”. This is the first word that Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella used to describe her plans for the new school year.

“We want a normal school year for our children,” he said. “Normal in our new ways of dealing with education, health and safety.”

Estrella is quick to add that COVID is not over and appropriate steps will be taken to keep children and staff healthy. However, the goal this year, she said, is to bring back “the joyful things that make school great: celebrations, assemblies, performances, meetings of children and parents”.

But as much as we all want things to return to normal, he said, “there are remnants created by the pandemic that will continue to exist and will need our support.”

“The educators have told me that many of our daily routines have been lost,” she said. Some students have never attended kindergarten, first grade, sixth or ninth grade in person, crucial years in which school expectations are set.

Therefore, there will be a renewed emphasis on teaching children to be good students: arriving in class on time, delivering homework when it is due, attending classes with peers, using cell phones appropriately, even walking properly in corridors. In short, the goal is to bring back the joy and enthusiasm of the school, but also the routines that make children and teachers successful.

The pandemic has intensified the growing stress children of all ages were experiencing and an even stronger response to students’ social and emotional needs is expected. Each Norwalk Middle School will have two additional school counselors this year.

“Counselors will engage in a lot of preventative care in middle school, because that’s where the children have had the greatest social and emotional challenges,” Estrella said.

And every elementary school will also have a full-time school counselor or social worker. “This is a turning point,” she said. “If we can tackle the problems early on, we won’t have to tackle them in the following years.”

But returning to normal doesn’t mean going back to how they were before the pandemic. There are new partnerships, new academic opportunities and new schools.

Estrella is expanding the pathways offered by high schools designed to meet student interests and prepare children for college entrance or promising careers.

As a result of a partnership with Norwalk Hospital and Norwalk Community College, high school students will be able to graduate as a certified nursing assistant or sterile processing technician (someone who prepares equipment that needs sterilization, such as instruments for surgery). These will add to the pathways already offered in fields such as digital media, marine biology, health services, engineering and more.

Deputy Superintendent of Excellence Thomas McBryde described a new program that will lead to a path for students interested in becoming educators. Twenty students will work in pre-K programs in schools this year.

“We think about all of these careers, but not about education,” he said. “Why not support our community and grow our teachers?”

And new and recently renovated schools are also opening. Concord Magnet School has moved to its new location on the Ponus Ridge Middle School campus. Jefferson Marine Science Elementary celebrated the opening of its fully renovated building on August 26, and the new South Norwalk Elementary School is enrolling two classes of pre-school and kindergarten students even though the new building is only in the planning stage. and has yet to be built. Students will attend classes at the former CMS headquarters in South Norwalk. Community partners, Maritime Odyssey Preschool and Carver Center, will provide pre- and after-school programs.

The key to improvement, Estrella believes, is expanding responsibility for Norwalk’s child welfare beyond the school system by combining resources and building partnerships. The Family Center, located on Park St., is a “center where parents can access all the resources the community has to offer,” she said, where families can access social services, special education and services. for multilingual students. They can enroll in parental education workshops and learn to navigate choices within schools.

All of these changes cost money and Estrella is looking for partners to help support schools financially.

McBryde interviewed candidates for a new position, director of philanthropy, who will become the head of fundraising for the schools, securing grants from foundations, government and individual sources.

Estrella’s vision of having a normal school year filled with joy and promise is both great and simple: “My goal is to have a great deal of focus on helping people understand that we need to take our children to kindergarten, accompany them. through the courses in middle and high schools, so we can see them all – 100 percent – crossing the stage in June “.

Roz McCarthy is a former employee of Norwalk Public Schools and a member of the Board of Education. Email her at [email protected]

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