Return to Headlines

What I Learned - Week One

September 15, 2020
First Week Photos
One representative from each of our schools (and Virtual Academy) recently shared one thing that they learned during the first week back in school ... 

“The teachers have stepped up and are providing an amazing middle school experience regardless of the time in seats. They've been preparing for 177 days (since we left in March) and it shows. Sadly we don't get to see the smiles on students’ faces but you know they're there. The District has provided tremendous guidance and resources to teach and learn safely. Between the PPE supplies to the support of our 100% remote students, the District is once again showcasing why Essex Westford School District is considered one of the best in the state.” - EMS Principal Kevin Briggs


HiawathaHiawatha Drop Off
“Kids are amazing and just like us, can do hard things. They bring us joy to our profession and make the bumps and kinks much easier. We are truly modeling for our kids a growth mindset. I think it took this pandemic to make us slow down, focus on what's most important, and know that we can't control everything, and that's okay.” - Hiawatha Principal Katherine Grykien 


"I learned during the first week of school that our EES staff, students, and families are amazing! Everyone worked together to make the start of the school year positive for all of our students. Even with some bumps in the road, everyone collaborated to do what was best for our students. We learned that being together at school was exactly what we needed after so much time apart. I am grateful to have joined such a wonderful community!" - EES Principal Ashley Gray


“I felt like every teacher was supporting me and helping me by answering my questions and checking in a lot. I also liked how we got little mask breaks outside. I also felt like the social distancing and hand hygiene protocols made me feel safe.” - An ADL student

Virtual Academy
“We have learned that it’s important to be flexible, to have a growth mindset and that we are a part of an outstanding team and community.” - Virtual Academy Principal Jackie Tolman

“We were all excited to have our students back with us last week! We saw a mix of emotions from our students as they began their first day with us. Many were very quiet and unsure of what to expect from school, after being away for almost six months. It didn't take long for teachers, staff, and students to settle into their days. The familiar buzz of students learning and laughing together and educators teaching and building relationships with students was heard throughout the building. This sound of connections being made and new learning occurring for our kids was the medicine this principal needed after a long summer of planning and preparation. A big thank you to our families and staff for helping us implement a smooth, safe arrival and dismissal time.” - FMS Principal Wendy Cobb

“As principal of Westford School, I learned that our school community is even more resilient and amazing than I anticipated. Students arrived to welcome banners and messages of encouragement. The initial worry that students would be uncomfortable or distracted by new safety procedures to enjoy learning and each other quickly dissipated. Our new learning spanned from new technologies such as Seesaw, to how to move throughout a day maintaining social distancing. At the end of the week, what I learned most is how much I missed being back with students and how much I love my school community.” - Westford Principal Marcie Lewis

“This past week I re-learned that schools are a lot more fun with kids in them! With so much time passing without students in classrooms and hallways I almost forgot how much more enjoyable it is to have our students in the building. It was so nice to see students in the halls and hear their laughter at recess. The first week of school also reminded me that when a group of people and a community come together, amazing things can be accomplished. Given the circumstance, it was a great first week of school!  Students did a great job wearing masks, however, I did learn that ensuring students stay six feet apart from one another after not seeing each other for a while is a tall order. I think they were all just too excited to see their friends.” - Thomas Fleming Principal Matt Roy


EHSEHS student
“Essex High School has reopened! It is wonderful to have students back in the building after all the planning about how a school in this model would look and feel. Students have been very flexible and seem excited to be back with their teachers, advisors, and classmates. Students' needs remain our collective focus and everyone is doing their part to help our students grow, learn, and flourish. The return to school has been a new frontier for everyone. The EHS faculty and staff have been tremendous in meeting the new challenges that this model brings. We are incredibly grateful to our fabulous team of teachers, leaders, parents, students, district, safety staff, maintenance staff, office managers, nurses, food service professionals, support staff, and more for all their hard work during the reopening and beyond. We are inspired, strengthened, and humbled by the resilience and flexibility our school community has demonstrated over the summer, and during this first week. The intrinsic need for human connections and the power of innovation are clearly evident throughout the building. We are truly honored to be part of the EWSD team and prepared to engage students in learning that is intellectually vital, personally meaningful, and socially valuable. We are all doing this together, and it shows! Go Hornets!” - EHS Administration 

“Summit Street is full of laughter, fun, and learning. In the words of our third-grade teacher Timiny Bergstrom, “I teach them that we can do hard things, and we say that lots of times, and then we celebrate every time we do something hard.” That is the unofficial motto of Summit Street School this year and the successes and celebrations of success have been inspiring. We are so happy to have a lively and active school community that is supported by our families and fueled by the dedication of our staff. Our families have done a tremendous job at teaching physical distancing and mask-wearing all summer and the transition to school was seamless.” - Summit Principal Suzanne Gruendling

“Our students have arrived from all over the region and are diving right into learning in their technical programs. Families have been working so well with us to get students accustomed to the new entry and learning procedures. We have learned that the time and energy that we poured into planning during the summer has paid off in all of us being able to settle into some new and familiar routines. Most importantly, we have all learned to appreciate and savor the time that we have to learn together face-to-face; knowing that this time together will help us to be ready to navigate the uncertainty that may lie ahead.” - CTE Assistant Director Carolyn Dickinson