By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
Southborough – Students returning to full-time in-person learning for the first time in over a year at Southborough’s Neary School stepped off their busses to see smiling staff faces and signs cheering them on March 22.
In a time of uncertainty, Neary Principal Kathleen Valenti said she was happy to have her students back under her roof. So, she wanted to show that joy by bringing colleagues in to set up decorations to get students excited about what could also be a stressful change of pace.
“We’ve been working hard to get to this point and we are very excited to have them all back,” she wrote in an email to the Community Advocate, the night before Neary’s reopening.
The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) had announced last month its plans to push schools to bring all students back for full-time in-person learning before the end of the spring.
That mandate soon grew proverbial teeth as DESE warned that it would no longer support still commonplace hybrid learning models. School districts that delayed a transition out of such formats without permission, new guidelines said, could face cuts in budget aid.
As some larger districts have requested those delay permissions, in Southborough, part of the joint Northborough/Southborough school district, the Neary Elementary School is already back in something resembling normal session.
Desks sit spaced apart. Everyone is wearing masks. And mass gathering elements of the daily schedule, like lunchtime, look different. But, now, classrooms are busy again.