‘They should have been ready’: Parents, students talk about problems on the first day of school in Waterbury

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WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Ten-year-old Stanley Sands was not having a good day.

“It’s…bad,” he said.

The 5th grader at Chase Elementary School is now doing his learning in his classroom at home, which also doubles as his bedroom. He’s part of the 60% of students doing virtual learning this fall with Waterbury Public Schools.

There was just one problem.

“Nothing is really working,” Stanley said.

Stanley and his mother, Patricia, could not get any of his passwords to work. He was also shut out of the district’s Virtual Academy online instructional courses. So, his mother ran to the store to buy 5th-grade educational books, which meant Stanley spent his first day of school working on things like math and reading while his mom hovered over him.

She wasn’t happy.

“I called the school, left voice mails, emails, no response,” said Sands.

She also said her family wasn’t the only family going through this.

“No! It’s all over Facebook. It’s all over Instagram. Parents are complaining.”

News 8 tried to contact the Superintendent, Dr. Verna Ruffin. However, a school district spokesperson texted News 8 saying that wasn’t going to happen today. They did give News 8 access to Dr. Ruffin last Thursday morning when they showed off how they were configuring classrooms to adhere to social distancing guidelines and providing sanitizing kits and PPE to protect teachers and students.

At that time, Dr. Ruffin told News 8 just how daunting it’s been trying to safely reopen in the midst of a pandemic, which no one has experience dealing with before.

“It has been the most challenging task and work we’ve ever done,” she said last Thursday. “Safety and health are our priorities throughout the entire school year.”

The district has also done work online to inform parents about procedures during the pandemic. The district has also given out Chromebooks to help families with digital learning.

But, from what Stanley’s mom experienced, day one did not make the grade.

“I give them no slack because of the simple fact [that] they should have been ready,” she said.

Another parent, Yvette Morales, told News 8 she was confused when she went to her son’s school and saw someone putting her child on a school bus. She arrived at her son’s school to walk him home from kindergarten.

“My child almost got put on a bus and I had no idea,” she said. “I just happened to see someone leading my son to the bus.”

She told News 8 she hopes that kind of confusion can be cleared up fast. The district has worked to develop an app online to provide another source of information to parents.

“I do appreciate they’re reopened,” Morales said. “But I do feel they could’ve been more forthcoming with information.”

Late tonight, Stanley Sands’ mother notified News8 telling us the district reached out and Stanley’s Day Two experience should be better than his Day One experience — his issues are fixed, clearing the way for him to begin his online learning in the school district’s “Virtual Academy”.

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