The following article was originally published by WPTZ.

Elementary students in the Ausable Valley School District have been apart for more than two years because of the pandemic, but on Tuesday, they finally had an opportunity to connect with their peers.

“We’re finally free, we can finally do what we’ve been wanting to for the past couple of years,” fourth grader Ayden Gonyo said.

Ausable Valley School District elementary students went on a field trip for the first time in 2 years.

“We haven’t really been able to ride the bus in a really long time, it’s been really nice to ride the bus with your class and go somewhere,” fourth grader Micalli Johnson said.

Third through sixth graders took part in a stem festival in the Keeseville Elementary School gym.

“It’s awesome, it feels so much better than just staying in school,” fourth grader Nora Rogers said.

The festival, organized by the Echo Lahey Center and College Careers for Every Student Brilliant Pathways Program immersed kids in hands-on workshops where they could practice engineering, science and teamwork.

“Rural students do not have as much access to multicultural things, museums, to science like this, it’s important to build these partnerships,” said Chris Mazzella with CFES Brilliant Pathways.

Older students from Ausable Valley Middle High School were there to mentor the sixth graders, who will be making the jump to their school in September.

“Middle school is definitely a big transition from elementary school. I believe if you have a connection with someone who is a few years older, it’s a little easier to understand and work yourself into the transition than jumping into it all at once,” says one Sophomore mentor, Jayna Kinsman.

Now that COVID-19 case numbers are low and students are no longer required to social distance, both of the district’s elementary schools are planning other events to engage kids and make up for the lost time.

– Krystin Rae