WALLINGFORD — Balloons, smiling faces and welcoming posters added to the air of excitement at Cook Hill Elementary School Thursday on the first day of the 2022-23 school year.
“Teachers have worked so hard in preparing for today and it just feels like we’re getting back to normal in the schools,” said Amy Yost, principal.
Thursday marked Yost’s first day of school as principal of Cook Hill. Previously, she was the principal of Sunnyside Elementary School in Shelton.
“I’m just so grateful to be here in the Wallingford School district,” Yost said. “The families have been so welcoming to me and same with the staff, so we’re just looking forward to a really adventurous and inspiring year for our young scholars.”
Kids whose families dropped them off for the first day waited at the front of the building for the beep at 8:50 a.m. that marked the beginning of dropoff. Caleb O’Keefe, 5, was starting his first day of kindergarten.
“He’s been waiting for this everyday this week,” said Dani O’Keefe, Caleb’s mother. “He’s been going, ‘Is it school day?’”
Once drop off began, support staff opened the doors of the building, helping students find their classrooms. Buses dropped students off at the back of the school building, where staff members greeted them and helped them find their classrooms.
“My typical first day is really just making sure the kids are happy and excited,” said Brianna Guido, school psychologist. “If we have some that are having a hard time separating, just helping them feel safe and comfortable in their new environment, getting them into a routine, which is always a little challenging.”
Yost said the first two days of school will focus on welcoming students to their “classroom families.”
“We’ll be jumping more into our curriculum next week,” Yost said.
Anne Sagnella, kindergarten teacher, started getting her class into a routine right away. All of her students have a number that indicates what hook they put their backpack on, what cubby they store their belongings in and what stick they use to indicate if they brought a lunch or will get a school provided lunch.
Once Sagnella’s students put away their belongings, they sat down with their supplies boxes and bags to color a back to school coloring page.
“It’s really just trying to get them to understand the routine, expectations,” Sagnella said about the first day of school. “... It’s amazing. By day two, by day three they know what they are doing.”
As of the evening before the first day of school for Wallingford Public Schools, Francis Thompson, assistant superintendent for personnel, said the district had a total of 5,303 students. Around 370 of those students were starting their first day of school at Cook Hill.
“On behalf of the superintendent, she is so excited to welcome our learners back to school,” Thompson said. “The buildings are ready, the buses are ready and the teachers and all the educators are so excited to have that energy back in the classrooms and back in the schools and we really believe it’s going to be a special year for everyone.”
Wallingford Public Schools are remaining mask optional for the 2022-23 school year.
“It warms my heart that we’re getting back to some normalcy for kids,” Yost said, “and really supporting those developmental years of seeing a face and having facial gestures and understanding what those mean because it really helps as part of communication.”