Meriden educators working to stay positive heading into new school year after pandemic disruption

Back to School 2021-2022

Back to School Photos 2021-22

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Summer is over and school is here. Many are wondering how this school year will compare to the last year during the pandemic.  

In Meriden on Thursday, News 8 joined for their Convocation 2021, an assembly held to lay out the district’s goals for the year.  

Meriden School District Superintendent Mark Benigni kicked the day off, “You know a lot has been talked about, ‘We lost a year, we have to go back, a whole year passed us by with learning…’ That’s really not the case.”

As staff members recuperate from the last year, they are trying to stay positive heading into the next year.  

During the presentation, Benigni laid out testing scores from the district. Ninety-five percent of students tested and internally and statewide, Benigni says, “Our students continued to make important gains and growth.”

News 8 sat down with a group of top academic administrators for the district. Dan Crispino, the director of School Leadership, Barbara Haeffner, who is the director of Teaching and Innovation, Lauren Mancini-Averitt, president of Meriden Federation of Teachers, and finally, Dr. Lisette Torres, the directors of Equity and Instruction.  

Haeffner tells News 8, “knowing what we know now I think we can only be more successful this year.” 

So what did the district learn from the pandemic school year?  

Crispino is a father of two students who are also a part of the Meriden School District. He says, “remote learning doesn’t work.” For his own family, he says, “It’s been a long hard road for my older student. My older son, my eighth-grader versus my third grader.” 

For Mancini-Averitt, she says teachers and students are meant to be in a classroom together, “But we didn’t go into teaching, anyone of us, to not be with the kids. I mean our whole, being a teacher is being with kids.” 

This year, they are coming back to school completely in-person learning, with no remote learners throughout their district. Across the board, the administrators say that is a huge game-changer.

“I felt like this year we’re really entering the school year, we’re okay. There’s a pandemic, here’s what’s in front of us, but here’s what we’re going to do. It’s going to have a positive impact overall. That’s a big change from last summer,” says Crispino.

There are some things they are hoping to take away from the pandemic, like virtual meetings.  

Dr. Torres says, “Being able to work with colleagues across the district without having travel time or losing time.” 

And while the health of the staff and students are on the forefront heading into the school year, they are optimistic and hoping for a successful year of being in the classroom together.  

“We’re going to do very well this year like we are going to be well. There will be health concerns, there will be disruptions, but I think we’ve learned how to bounce back from those distractions faster so I think success is eminent the school year,” Crispino says.  

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