Wethersfield Opens Schools With High School Renovation Looming

The Hartford Courant

Wethersfield – New Charles Wright Elementary School Principal Glenn Horter started the school year Thursday morning with a rap about reading.

With the student body gathered on the playground, Horter played the song "Reading Rocks," urging kids to join him and teachers bopping to the catchy tune.

"C'mon you guys!" Horter said, coaxing a trio of boys into the middle of the playground to dance. "C'mon! C'mon!"

Later, Horter gathered students and staff who celebrated birthdays over the summer and had the assembled school sing them "Happy Birthday."

"Excellent," Horter said of his first day leading the school. "It's a great team to work with."

More than 3,700 students said goodbye to summer Thursday and returned to the town's seven schools for the 2013-14 school year. Superintendent Michael Emmett said that the first day of school ran smoothly district wide.

"I'm very excited," Emmett said. "We've got a lot of work to do."

That work includes transition to the new Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessments, which are replacing the Connecticut Mastery Tests, Emmett said. The district is also implementing new teacher evaluations, he said.

In addition, the system has three new principals. Two principals retired, Elizabeth Catarius at Emerson-Williams Elementary School and James Slattery, who served as interim at Samuel B. Webb Elementary School. Wright School Principal Mindy Wilkie took a job in her hometown, Emmett said.

But the biggest challenge facing the district this year is the $75 million reconstruction of Wethersfield High School, Emmett said. The work will begin later this month and continue throughout the school year and into next, he said.

"It's going to be a years-long issue," Emmett said.

The project was on the mind of incoming senior Stavros Kavroudakis as he arrived for the first day of classes Thursday.

"It's going to be weird to see half the school gone," Kavroudakis said.

Wethersfield High School Principal Thomas Moore said he's not worried about the impact of the construction on students. He said he would discuss the work at upcoming class meetings and keep parents informed of changing traffic patterns as the project evolves.

"Kids are kids," he said. "They'll get it. They're flexible."

Town sidewalks were thick Thursday morning with colorfully dressed walkers, many accompanied by parents, returning for the new school year. The day marked a new high school, as well as a new school year for sisters Rachel and Elizabeth Craig. Their family just moved from Indiana.

"I think the school seems really nice, and I'm excited," said Elizabeth Craig, a freshman.

Later in the morning, the Willard family, father, mother and three kids, one in a stroller, escorted Liam, the oldest, to Charles Wright for the start of first grade.

"He sees himself as a semi-veteran," Liam's father Todd Willard said.

Liam was eager to kick off the new school year.

"I think it's going to be fun," Liam said. "I really want to get in."

Jonna Roberge was among a group of paraprofessionals welcoming students as they arrived at Wethersfield High School. Grinning broadly, Roberge enthusiastically greeted kids entering the building.

"I remember you from first grade," she said to one student. "That makes me older."

Moments later, she hugged a female student, complimenting her new hairstyle.

"You get hugs on the first day, you know it's going to be a good year," Roberge said.

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