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Cos Cob students reunite, in character

November 1, 2018 GMT

GREENWICH — As Disney princesses and Star Wars Jedi waved to their parents and marched around the leafy field, parent Traci Bosco called out to her daughter, dressed in a blue pinafore with red sparkling shoes.

“Tap your heels together!” she shouted across the blacktop.

Her young Dorothy complied.

“After all, there’s no place like home,” Bosco said.

Kindergarteners, first- and second-graders were reunited with their schoolmates in grades three, four and five for the annual Cos Cob School Halloween parade Wednesday. They decorated cookies, played ghost bowling and marched around the field: a new route to keep children from construction areas.

Before he knew what classrooms — or school buildings — students displaced by flooding at Cos Cob School would move into for the fall months, Cos Cob Principal Gene Schmidt made sure the Halloween parade could be at the school.

“We had to keep the community together,” Schmidt said.

Extensive damage caused by a broken faucet in the second floor art room closed Cos Cob in early October. Students returned to class Oct. 15, with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders remaining in the building, and younger students sent to Parkway and Old Greenwich schools.

From the third floor Wednesday, Schmidt pointed down to the media center, and said the new carpeting has been torn up and the bookcases tossed out. No books were harmed, though.

Clean up and remediation were finished this Monday, officials said in an update Wednesday. The district is currently reviewing quotes by contractors and will select a vendor for reconstruction work this week. Administrators still expect to finish reconstruction, inspection and approvals in time for students to return to Cos Cob after the December break, officials said.

The town will spend about $1.9 million on clean-up, remediation and reconstruction, the replacement of damaged furniture and relocation of students. The interim appropriation request was approved by town agencies by Oct. 22.

Parent Karine Yantorno appreciated the school kept its tradition.

“My two are at different schools — like two different sides of the world,” she said at the parade.

Both Yantorno and Bosco were students at Cos Cob when the school burned down in the summer of 1990, and both spent their last three elementary years at Parkway School, which the district reopened to accommodate the Cos Cob students.

Now Bosco’s child, who normally walks to school, rides the bus every day to Old Greenwich, which she considers a good experience.

“We treat it as an adventure,” Bosco said.

Parent Kristen Paradise, dressed as Ariel, waves to her daughter, dressed as Jasmine.

“She didn’t know I’d be dressing up,” Paradise said, glowing after seeing her daughter’s face register with surprise. “That’s why I do it.”

On her first day back to class, Paradise hugged her daughter and explained the new situation was just temporary.

“I was more upset than she was at first,” she said. “I didn’t get to see her new classroom, and I was just relying on teachers and the Cos Cob community.”

Her daughter cried when she came home that day. Riding the bus was a new experience for her, since she lives in a house just over the fence from the school.

“It was very overwhelming,” Paradise said. “The kids were so brave.”

The leaves were crisp and the kids were cute, but not all was well with the parents.

The biggest adjustment has been the combined first-grade classrooms at Old Greenwich School, which her daughter has mentioned, Paradise said.

The desks of first-graders did not fit in their new rooms, so they sit at round tables, said Melissa Cahaly, who toured the Old Greenwich classrooms.

“We know what it looks like, what the conditions are,” she said.

Old Greenwich absorbed four first-grade classrooms, which must be located on the ground floor according to state law, and three second-grade classrooms. The move displaced band, Spanish, science lab, computer lab and English-language-learning classes.

Currently, each first-grade classroom has two sections of 15-16 students and two teachers, which the district says maintains the teacher-to-student ratio in a “co-teaching model.”

Cahaly said she has repeatedly asked administrators how the kids are supposed to learn when they share tables and do not have enough space for quiet reading time. She said this is a critical point in their education, and the current environment, small and overcrowded, does not seem conducive to learning.

With winter coming, she wonders where students will put their bulky jackets, since rooms are tight already and two children are assigned to one locker.