Fairfield welcomes students for the first day of school with some 'forms of normalcy'

FAIRFIELD — The halls of Fairfield Ludlowe High School were filled with excitement once again as teachers and staff welcomed students for the first day of school on Monday.

Upbeat, enthusiastic and thrilled are just a few words to describe the atmosphere and the body language walking into the high school. While mouths were covered due to the current mask mandate, it was clear that there were smiles going around.

Junior Charlie Buccellato said it’s exciting to just have the social component of school back.

“It’s really nice to be back in general, but it’s quite exciting especially that there will be somewhat forms of normalcy this year, especially compared to opening up last year,” Buccellato said. “We lost the whole social aspect of school and everything that make it fun. I’m excited to have that back this year right off the get go.”

Officials had wanted the year to begin as normal as possible and not start with masks, however, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order that required universal masking until Sept. 30.

Buccellato said that it’s nice that students will be able to take mask breaks in the halls and with the higher percentage of the amount of people vaccinated, he sees the progress that has been made and will hopefully continue to be made.

“The new delta variant is still a concern, but it’s nice that we have these new safety features,” Buccellato said. “It also promises that if we made that much progress last year, maybe by the end of this year we can be back into normal schooling.”

Head Principal Greg Hatzis further echoed Buccellato statement by acknowledging that while it is not the ideal way the school wanted to start the year, what they learned from last year has put them into much better shape moving forward.

He said students have also responded well to the mask mandate and understand the importance of them amid the safety concerns.

“I think there is a lot more excitement where as last year there was a lot more fear, trepidation and even just the unknown,” Hatzis said. “Obviously this is not the opening that we hoped for when we finished the year last year.”

“We’re still wearing masks, still social distancing and worrying about the potential spread, but at the same time we are in such a better place than we were last year in terms of knowing what to expect and knowing how to handle situations,” he added.

The high school started the first day with an advisory period where students talked about their names, as well as what their names mean to them.

Hatzis said this year they want to promote equity and people getting along. The first step to that is starting with the basic identity of what what their name is and how they want people to view their name.

“The first step of people understanding each other is also understanding yourself,” Hatzis said. “Self-awareness leads to social-awareness.”

Another topic outside of equity and inclusion that Hatzis hopes can be addressed soon is the discussion surrounding remote learning. Over the last few months, the topic has been prominent with the conversation intensifying each week as it got closer to the school start date.

A rally was recently organized by a Fairfield Warde student, who wanted the remote option to protect his older brother who is high risk, asking for a remote option. The Board of Education also acknowledged that remote learning needs to be a viable option for students that are immune compromised or have a family member who is immune compromised.

School officials are now in the process of hiring staff and putting plans in place, something Hatzis agrees with.

“I certainly understand that there are families that feel because they are immune compromise that remote learning would be the best option for the students,” Hatzis said. “I can tell you that it is a really difficult proposition for the teachers to be able to manage a live classroom and also have to manage students online. It really changes the whole dynamic in terms of activities and those type of things.”

“While I hope there can be a solution for the families that might need the remote option, I don’t want that to happen where it puts the teachers in a really tough spot to do their jobs well,” he added.