‘It’s going to be much better’

‘It’s going to be much better’

Vincent Ceceri, left, a kindergartner, and his brother Gianni, a 4th-grader at Potter-Burns Elementary School in Pawtucket, virtually learning at home. Their mom, Destini Ceceri, said she’s happy that the School Committee voted to allow students to return to in-person learning next month, adding that Gianni jumped up and down when he heard the news. 
Parents relieved, excited children can return to school

PAWTUCKET – When Rayna Tomasian told her daughter Alayna, a 1st-grader at Varieur Elementary School, that she would be able to return to school next month, the 6-year-old smiled from ear to ear and ran to hug her mother.

“It’s going to give her something back,” Tomasian said, who noted that being at home has been difficult on her daughter.

Tomasian is one of several Pawtucket parents who shared with The Breeze how sending their children back to school will be a blessing, both for them and for their kids, following the Pawtucket School Committee’s decision to approve a gradual reopening plan on Feb. 9.

“I wish they listened to us a little bit earlier,” Tomasian said of the school board, but “I’m glad they heard our voices. These kids are suffering.”

Tomasian also has a daughter, Aubrey, who’s in pre-K at Greene Elementary, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and has been regressing socially and academically by being at home, as well as a 3-year-old son Dean, she said.

Having her children back at school is going to improve her schedule, too, she said. “I can start focusing back on myself. … It’s definitely going to make my schedule a little easier.”

She said she’s aware that her kids could be learning at home again at the drop of a hat, if, for example, there’s a COVID-19 exposure in the classroom and everyone has to quarantine, but she added that she’s lucky that she’s at home and can manage that.

For Kristen Mota, distance learning has been difficult for her children, 8th-grader Alex and 5th-grader Caroline, and she welcomes the School Committee’s decision to reopen schools.

“Both my kids have been anxious and depressed, increasingly over time. … They’re both failing classes where they weren’t before,” she said. “I’m thrilled that they’re going back. … They’re both excited.”

Despite the challenges, Mota noted that her children’s teachers have been amazing and have been working with her however they can. She said she feels bad for the students who will have new teachers for the remainder of the school year. “That’s horrible,” she said. “I think they should have offered this option from the beginning and that would have alleviated a lot.”

Having to juggle her job as an operations manager for a financial advisory firm with having her children home for distance learning has been brutal, she said. “The kids don’t just need me home with them. They need me there to keep them focused (and) answer questions that they have,” she said.

When she heard the decision to reopen schools, she said she felt immediately relieved. “It’s going to be much better,” she said.

Having her children return to school means that Destini Ceceri can go back to work now, she said. “Thank goodness,” she said. “It’s a wonderful decision.”

Her son Gianni, a 4th-grader at Potter-Burns Elementary, was excited when his mom told him the news and was jumping up and down, she said. “He needs it,” she said, previously telling The Breeze that Gianni has ADHD and trouble focusing on the computer. He said he misses being at school and seeing his friends.

During the School Committee meeting, Jade Marulanda spoke on behalf of parents who are underserved in the community, including herself. She said the current virtual model isn’t working for her child or many other students in Pawtucket, adding that she’s not calling for a push to get all students back in school. One size doesn’t fit all, she said, and there are many kids who are falling behind and through the cracks, needing more structure.

“Give back to the students,” she said. “We need to make sure that we save our children and their education.”

Sandy Darosa, who has a kindergartner and 1st-grader in Pawtucket schools, said she was pleased with the School Committee’s decision to give parents a choice of how their children can attend school. “We wanted a fair option also,” she said of parents who wanted to send their children back into the classroom.

While her kindergartner was able to return to school, her 1st-grader was upset he had to participate in virtual learning from home. “My 1st-grader being in school is the best option for him,” she said, adding that she believes her child isn’t receiving a high-quality education virtually. “He’s definitely going to benefit from it. … He’s super excited about it. He misses school.”

Having to drop her younger child off for 9 a.m. and be home with her other child, whose classes started at 9 a.m., was also impossible. “It wasn’t working at all,” she said.

Rayna and Tim Tomasian, of Pawtucket, with their three children, from left, Alayna, Dean, and Aubrey.
When Alayna Tomasian, a 1st-grader at Varieur Elementary School, pictured here virtually learning at home, found out that she could return to the classroom next month, her mom said she smiled from ear to ear. 
Destini Ceceri and her husband, Chris, of Pawtucket, with their three children, clockwise from left, Vincent, Nico, and Gianni.