First Students Return to Chelsea Public Schools in Re-Opening Plan

Little Rebecca Guerra Ulloa pressed her face to the school bus as it rounded the corner and pulled into the parking lot of the Mary C. Burke Complex on Monday morning just around 8:30 a.m.

Anxious teachers – many of whom had not been back to their classrooms for more than a year since school shutdown for COVID-19 in 2020 – waited for their students coming off the bus.

Not Holding Her Back!: First grader Rebecca Guerra Ulloa bolted out of the school bus on Monday at the Mary C. Burke Complex as one of the first students to return to school in-person in more than a year due to COVID-19. Students in special education plans or sub-separate classrooms were the first students in the district’s plan to return to the buildings in the hardest hit community in Massachusetts. Interestingly, Ulloa had never been to the school in Chelsea despite having almost a year of schooling online under her belt. She had only met her teacher online via Zoom, and was so excited when she saw her, she ran at full speed from the bus.

Ulloa had never actually been to a Chelsea school – having transferred in last year after COVID closed the schools. Though she had about a year of Chelsea schooling under her belt, she had never been in a Chelsea school.

She had never met her teacher, either, except on Zoom.

And so as the bus stopped, the first grader recognized her teacher and when the doors opened, she sprinted as fast as she could to give her teacher a fist bump and revel in the excitement of really meeting and really going to school.

Monday signified the first day that students in special education classes or sub-separate classrooms, who amounted to the first students to return to the schools since last year, came back to school.

They will be going five days a week, with all the protocols and testing procedures in place.

Barring any major setbacks, on April 12, in-person learning will expand to Grades 1-4 at the ELC, Berkowitz, Hooks, Kelly and Sokolowski Schools – plus the grades 5-6 Caminos a the Kelly. It amount to the rollout of a re-opening plan that no one thought would ever happen this year, even as recently as late January.

Last week, the School Committee approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Teacher’s Union and the Superintendent.

Supt. Almi Abeyta was at the Berkowitz School Monday morning, and welcomed back students and teachers coming in for their first day.

“Welcome back to in-person teaching to many of our educators,” she wrote in a letter later in the day. “It has been just over a year since we have delivered instruction in-person to our students in the Chelsea Public Schools. It was so nice to see so many teachers and students face-to-face this morning. We saw many smiles underneath the masks, toe bumps, and beautiful teacher-student first moments in-person.”

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