SAVOY, Mass. The end of the school year is always something to celebrate, especially for the 44 Savoy pupils who spent 170 days in person in the classroom during the first global pandemic in a century.
"One hundred and 70 days ... it is just amazing," Principal Tracy Tierney said Friday before the early dismissal. "It took the support of the whole community to make this happen."
The Emma L. Miller Elementary School, like all other schools, shut down in the spring of 2020 during the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But once they were allowed to return to in-person learning, Savoy teachers, students, and families were determined to stay.
"After that experience, we were determined to get back here," Tierney said. "It wasn't good, and we knew it wasn't good for kids ... . We had our school nurse here every day and she was tenacious. All of the teachers were willing to come in and do this, and the families supported all of the new procedures. It was quite the accomplishment."
This followed the example of other schools in the Northern Berkshire School Union that, because of the schools' smaller sizes, were able to open on schedule in the fall after a great deal of effort in ensuring safety. Savoy, Florida and Rowe were all in-person and Clarksburg was all but its middle school, which was hybrid.
Tierney said staff stuck to the new procedures and she was happy to say that with mask-wearing and social distancing and months of cleaning and sanitizing, there were zero COVID-19 cases at the school.
"Everyone has done everything they had to do to make our school year successful," Tierney said. "We have kept everyone healthy."
This allowed for a 170-day in-person education run that was only broken up by two remote snow days.
There were balloons and signs in the pre-K through Grade 6 school congratulating children and staff for accomplishing something so many larger schools could not.
Kids were queued in the hallway preparing for the OK to head out to the bus. Teachers and staff high-fived them as they waited in the hallway for the anticipated "school is out for the summer" announcement.
Tierney said there was a fear among educators that the children would fall behind with a year in remote learning. But this was not the case in Savoy.
"We just did our final assessments for the year and a lot of our kids are right where they needed to be," she said. "Everyone was here and healthy."
She said they did not only achieve their educational goals, but provided a safe space for kids during a troubling time.
"The social-emotional element is important. Even though the kids are here we know that there are challenges," she said. "For parents to know that they have a safe place for their kids to come every day I think is good. We are here to do what is best for the kids."
Tierney said although COVID-19 was a disruption, disruptions aren't always a bad thing since they force educators to freshen up how they do things.
"We have grown in our practice. Our teachers have done new things," she said. "You go along with the status quo and I think it helps to change things up."
That being said, she was happy to get the 2020 -2021 school year in the rearview mirror.
"We are excited about next year and the increased time learning," she said. "Even though we have been here, we have taken so much time handwashing, sanitizing, even lunch and recess take longer. We are excited to get back to just teaching kids."