BERLIN - Excitement filled the classrooms and hallways of schools throughout the school district Wednesday on the first day of classes.
“She’s excited; she’s not nervous. She’s been counting down the days on the fridge until school started,” said Erin Georgini, who, along with her husband, Jason, dropped off their daughter, Emma, for her kindergarten class at Griswold.
“It was difficult getting up early this morning,” said Maya Wroblewski, a junior at Berlin High School.
“I’m excited to get to know them better and see them grow academically and socially and emotionally this year,” said Megan Wesoly, a third-grade teacher at Hubbard.
The first day brought more than 100 new faces to town schools. The uptick in enrollment was more than had been projected at the beginning of the calendar year.
Families moved into town from other districts and out of state are responsible for the increase, said School Superintendent David Erwin. While some students left the district, Erwin said, 185 new kindergartners were enrolled, which was 25 more than what the district was expecting.
“Berlin is the place to move into,” said Director of Special Education Linda Holian, adding that 25 of the new students are special-needs students, five times more than the usual amount annual increase. None needs to be out-placed, she added, and one student is a good candidate for the Effective School Solutions program, which provides intensive assistance to special-needs students.
The program is returning for a second year, after initially being cut due to budget concerns.
The district also features 94 Open Choice students, with four seats still open. The Open Choice program offers students in Hartford the opportunity to attend non-magnet schools in the suburbs.
Despite having 11 teaching positions frozen due to a $900,000 budget cut, the district was still able to fill 20 teaching positions.
David Kitzman, former assistant principal at McGee Middle School, began his tenure as head of Griswold Elementary School Wednesday.
“Griswold has a tradition of being an excellent school for teaching and learning, and we plan to continue that to support the overall joy of coming to school,” said Kitzman as he greeted students outside the Griswold entrance.
Timothy Chiaverini, a former math teacher at Norwich Free Academy, filled Kitzman’s vacancy at McGee, while Megan Sirois, former teacher at Hubbard Elementary School, became the new assistant principal for both Griswold and Willard schools.
Not a new face, but an old one who will soon be replaced, is Berlin High School Principal Francis Kennedy, who will go on a leave of absence from Nov. 2 to June 30, 2018, at which time he will resign.
“I don’t know what to make of it,” said Kennedy on his last first day of school as an educator. “It’s hard to accept. … This is one of the good (days).”
Kennedy enjoyed the fact that this is the first year major construction isn’t going on at the high school since the renovation project began.
Erwin, also experienced his last first day of school, as he will be retiring in January, with Assistant Superintendent Brian Benigni taking over. He visited schools throughout the district with Board of Education President Matthew Tencza, Director of Business Operations Eva Gallupe and Holian.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Erwin.