More than 6,000 Chelsea students began the 2021-22 academic year Wednesday morning at the ten schools in the city.
Supt. of Chelsea Schools Dr. Almi Abeyta personally arrived well in advance of the starting time to welcome back students at the Mary C. Burke Complex.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a good year-and-a-half,” said Abeyta. “To be in-person and to be all-in is very exciting.”
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the previous school year as students participated in remote learning programs until mid-March when elementary and middle school students began to return to the classroom. In May, high school students returned to the classroom.
“We find that to be really helpful, because it helped everybody ease back into school,” said Abeyta. “A lot of our teachers said, ‘oh, we can do this amidst COVID-19, and we can keep everyone safe’.’’
“A lot of people commented to me that they were thankful to have the last part of the [2020-21] school year in person,’’ said Abeyta.
Of the 6,000 returning students, Chelsea High School has the largest individual enrollment at a single school in the city with 1,500 students. The John Silber Early Learning Center has the second largest enrollment with 940 students. A virtual learning program is also making its debut this year.
School personnel and students will be wearing masks inside the school. Extra custodial staff has been hired to clean the school facilities more frequently, according to Abeyta.
“And we will be social distancing as much as possible at lunchtime,” she added.
Abeyta is being aided in the administration of the Chelsea school system by Assistant Superintendent of Schools Adam DeLeidi, the former principal of the Berkowitz School, and Michael Lovato, the former special education director in the Lowell public school district.
Interestingly, though she is beginning her third year as superintendent of schools, Abeyta was participating in her first in-person, opening day of the school year.
“It’s kind of weird because I’m beginning my third year in Chelsea, but this is my two-and-half year of superintendency,” explained Abey-ta. “My predecessor, Dr. Mary Bourque, and I had an overlap of six months, so I’m actually starting my third year in Chelsea, but because of COVID, there was no in-person opening day last September (2020).”