Students and staff in Hartford headed back to class Tuesday morning.
Crayons, name tags and worksheets were neatly placed around the classrooms of the Burns Latino Academy. Its students were part of the 22,000 district-wide who were attending the first day of school.
Teachers at the Burns school said they arrived before dawn to prepare.
"I come early, I go home late," said Maria Valesquez, a kindergarten teacher. "My daughter says, 'Mom, one day you're going to sleep at the school.' I said 'one day.'"
Valesquez is a veteran teacher of 28 years. She said she laid out two versions of the same books she planned to read, one in Spanish, the other in English. She said it's one of the best ways to teach kindergartners, many of whom are Hispanic and use English as a second language.
"They're very smart so they get it quickly," said Valesquez.
While kindergartners got a jump start on Tuesday, the rest of the district came ready to learn as well.
"I'm happy and excited but I'm also shy and scared," said Linda Wilson, a fourth-grader.
Hartford's superintendent said there will be challenges this year. She planned to focus on raising student reading levels and closing a wide achievement gap.
Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez came to the capital city from Maryland with school administration experience. She said she's looking forward to making improvements.
"We're a large school system, we have over 21,000 students," she said. "So making sure that each and every adult finds that adult, that mentor, that can advocate for them and help them find their way to success."
To help start off the year, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Schiavino-Narvaez and other school leaders went on a bus tour around the district. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman also attended.
It began at the Burns Latino Studies Academy.
The tour showcased four schools that city officials said will be critical to the district's achievement gains in the 2014 to 2015 school year.
Along with Burns, the Pathways Academy of Technology and Design, the Sarah J. Rawson Elementary and Middle School and the John C. Clark Elementary and Middle School were on the list.
The tour was wrapped up before noon on Market Street.
Staff members attended their annual convocation at the Sports and Medical Sciences Academy Monday morning.
Segarra and Schiavino-Narvaez revved up the 1,800 teachers in preparation for the new school year.
While students opened their books, police made sure drivers around the schools took it slow through the school zones. A ticket could cost a driver up to $300.
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