WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — More school districts headed back to the classroom Tuesday, including Waterbury. It was the first time that the first day of school felt normal in three years.
“The staff are energized. It feels really good,” Waterbury Schools Superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin said. “We got a chance to see our bus drivers driving our kids. We’re not short on bus drivers this year.”
Just like every district, however, Waterbury does not have enough teachers. Ruffin says they are down about 200 positions.
“That doesn’t mean that we don’t have teachers to cover, but they are covering because they’re making adjustments, and that’s really hard on teachers when they teach an extra class or two,” Ruffin said.
Ruffin was welcoming students to the International Dual Language School, which opened just one year ago. Last year, it started with half the students speaking only English, and the other half not speaking much English. They spoke mostly Spanish. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D-Conn) was there to celebrate the anniversary with free backpacks and school supplies.
“What an exciting opportunity to go to an elementary school and learn another language, especially when the youngest kids have the best facility to learn,” Bysiewicz said.
In just a year, International has become one of the most popular schools in Waterbury. There is a big need among families that speak only Spanish at home, and there is great interest from English-speaking families to expose their kids to a foreign language at a young age.
“We’re actually lucky,” said Leslie Duran as she dropped off her 3-year-old twins. “I just moved from Jersey, so it’s a new beginning for all of us.”
The school serves pre-K through second grade, and there is already a waiting list for next year.