Happy students who had chosen returning to school in-person, full-time at the highest rate in the city returned to the Warren Prescott School in grades K-8 on Monday with all the smiles and excitement of what would be the first day of school – but this time in late April.
Many students had not ever really been to the school full-time, as they were in younger grades and have spent a vast majority of their school years at home remote, and more recently, in a hybrid format two days a week. However, until Monday, students had not had the option of the traditional school format of five days a week, in-person for more than a year.
Brian Gowdy noted that his daughter, Caroline, is in kindergarten, and most of her schooling has taken place at home, he said, so it was a welcome change for their family.
“I think it’s a great change for the kids,” he said. “My daughter Caroline is in K-2 and more than half of her schooling to date has come under COVID protocols and mostly remote. Full-time school is going to be good for her.”
Principal Michele Davis said they were excited to welcome back so many students, and noted they had 420 students coming for in-person learning on Monday.
“I’m so excited to welcome more than 400 students back for in-person learning five days a week,” she said. “It’s been a year of adjustments and I know we will persist and prevail in making these adjustments as well. I’m happy to see smiling faces return to the W-P.”
Elementary Supt. Tommy Welch said a great deal of the planning had been done before the break to prepare the facility and the staff for having so many kids back in the schools this week. He said they did a lot of the hard work before the Spring Break, and then used the Break for everyone to recharge and for facilities staff to button up the finishing touches at each school.
“We’ve been working really hard on operations and facilities – transportation and food service too,” he said. “It’s just an exciting day and it does feel like regular school again.”
Overall, less than half of the parents throughout BPS chose an in-person learning model for their students in grades K-8. High school students in grades 9-12 have not yet returned to five-day school, but the state announced a mandate to have those students back by May 17. Of those eligible for the in-person option, Charlestown had the highest percentage of students returning citywide, according to BPS figures. The Town had 58 percent of students choose in-person learning, for a total of 1,001 students. There were 33 percent of students who have remained remote, which is 568 students. Some 9 percent are still officially registered as Hybrid and haven’t changed over their preferences yet. Districtwide, only 46 percent of the students have chosen an in-person model, and Chinatown was the lowest number of in-person students with 30 percent going in-person and 63 percent staying remote.
At the doors of the school on Monday, it was a varying array of emotions.
Kids who hadn’t seen each other (except on Zoom) in more than a year awkwardly, but excitedly, greeted one another. Parents were mostly happy to have their children off to a classroom for the week, but there was a bittersweet tinge to that as well – as many parents had grown accustomed to having their children beside them for the day as they worked at home or conducted some sort of hybrid working environment alongside their children. For some families, it was their first real separation since March 2020, when everything went on lockdown.
Overwhelmingly, though, there was a sense among parents choosing in-person at the Warren Prescott that it was safe, and it was the right thing to do for the children and for society. “Our kids have been away for over a year,” said parent Donna Garlough. “They are ecstatic to see their friends again. I feel this school has done an awesome job to prepare the kids and to re-start. I think everyone is ready for a fresh start. I do feel palpable relief from the parents.”