STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — The West Vine Street School in Stonington has been recognized as the 2023 Elementary School of the Year by the Connecticut Association of Schools.

“We are absolutely honored with this recognition,” said Kathryn Irvine, principal of West Vine Street School.

The school’s principal along with parents, teachers, and students were invited up to the state capitol to tour the senate chambers and receive recognition of the school’s accomplishment.

The school’s sensory garden has become a place where students can come to read and also get their hands dirty planting peas and other veggies with the help of parent volunteers.

“It was awesome. It was the best experience of my life. It was so cool. They were so welcoming,” said Danny Oliverio, a fifth grader at West Vine Street School.

The welcoming environment was what the Connecticut Association of Schools saw when it visited the school.

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“Things that they wanted to hear more about was the culture of our building,” said Kate Southard, an math instructional coach at the school.

Southard is also one of the staff members who welcomes students at drop-off each day.

“It’s personally my most favorite part of the day because I get to set the tone for their day with a good morning and a smile and excitement,” Southard said.

The school also tries to be creative with its curriculum. One example is a recycling project made by STEM students. They are using recyclable materials to make mini golf courses and they used a 3D printer to make the putters.

“We’ve worked very hard with post-pandemic to get students where they need to be to feel safe in an inclusive environment where they can thrive and learn,” Irvine said.

A curriculum and culture which may mean high marks in the classroom and beyond.

“I always call it like a family,” said Kristen Oliverio, the elementary curriculum coordinator.