CAPE ELIZABETH — After weeks of orientation for students, Cape Elizabeth schools had their first official day of classes on Monday, albeit under the guidelines from state and federal health officials.

Dylan Swift, 16, and his younger brother Henry Adams, 13, on their first day of school in Cape Elizabeth on Monday. Courtesy / Corin Swift

“Things went really well,” said School Superintendent Donna Wolfrom. “We’re so happy to have our kids back.”

Starting on Sept. 8, the district began bringing small groups of students back to local schools for orientation to get them ready for a new in-school experience. The school board approved a plan on Aug. 18 that allowed schools to reopen this month under a hybrid system. Similar to other area school districts, students in Cape Elizabeth will attend school in-person for two days a week, and take part in classes via remote learning for the rest of the time. Students will need to adhere to coronavirus-related guidelines such as wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

District enrollment figures show 1,548 students registered as of Sept. 1: 512 at Pond Cove Elementary School, 483 at Cape Elizabeth Middle School and 553 at Cape Elizabeth High School. On Monday, Wolfrom said staff members helped guide kids along to where they were supposed to be, and praised the staff for how easy they made it look.

“It’s going pretty smoothly,” she said. “It really appeared as though they’d been doing this forever.”

Other districts have noted problems with traffic, as more parents are bringing their children to school and picking them up, instead of allowing them to take the bus. In Cape Elizabeth, a road crew made the traffic even more difficult on Scott Dyer Road, in front of the middle school.

“That is a challenge,” Wolfrom said, “but that’s not a long-term situation.”

Wolfrom said even now the learning plan is not set in stone. Officials will be reviewing every part of the school day, including traffic issues, to see if any “fine-tuning” needs to be done, but overall she said the schools’ re-openings went well.

“The kids seemed so happy to be back, and the parents seemed happy to have them back,” Wolfrom said.

Henry Adams, 13, completing a puzzle with an occupational therapist at Cape Elizabeth Middle School on Monday. Courtesy / Corin Swift

Local resident Corin Swift has two kids in the school system: Dylan Swift, 16, a student at the high school, and Henry Adams, 13, who started eighth grade on Monday. Swift said when she picked Henry up at the end of the school day it was crowded but organized.

“It looked very busy,” she said, “but there were a lot of teachers and administrators along the road directing traffic.”

Swift said traffic was indeed an issue, especially with the road construction, and her son had a few small problems with his first day, such as a mistake that led Dylan to be in a breakout session in Zoom all by himself for a few minutes, instead of with his fellow students or teachers.

“There’s still a few glitches to work out,” she said.

Overall, though, Swift was pleased with how the district is handling classes, and looks forward to a school year that has returned even a small semblance of normalcy.

“For me, I’m so happy that the school is trying to make this work,” she said.

Henry said there were some adjustments to be made, like having to wear a mask.

“It was pretty weird at first,” he said.

But he got used to it, just like he got used to virtual classes this spring.

“It was pretty good by the end (of the school year),” he said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

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