The start of the school year at Monta Loma Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 10, had all the classic elements of the first day: Families snapping pictures of their kids in front of the campus, parents sticking around to give final hugs and waves goodbye, and teachers comforting tearful kindergarteners.
In many ways, the first day of the third school year to begin during the pandemic looked and felt like it might have back in 2019. Parents were allowed onto campus (at least until classes began), there were no longer plastic barriers between desks and teachers gave kids high fives and hugs.
The most visible remaining COVID-19 mitigation measure was the masks that the district requires teachers and students to wear while indoors. Other less-visible safety protocols are also in place, including stepped-up air filtration and a vaccination requirement for volunteers. The district is also continuing daily cleaning and sanitation procedures.
This year there is no longer an on-campus COVID-19 testing program, although the district has said it plans to give students at-home rapid tests to use before the second day of classes.
As kindergarten families gathered outside to meet their new teachers, Tanya Ngo said that she was happy for her daughter Penelope to be starting school and gaining independence.
"I'm very excited for her – she's ready," Ngo said. "She's been really excited and looking forward to it."
On social media, the school district celebrated the first day by posting photos of kids returning to campuses and starting classes.
"We are so excited to see happy faces back on campus and are looking forward to an incredible year ahead," a district Twitter post said.
Suzeth Lara was similarly looking forward to watching her son Daniel begin his first day of kindergarten at Monta Loma. Lara's older children, the eldest of whom is in college, attended private school at St. Joseph Catholic School and Lara said she was excited for her son to experience the public system. In particular, she said she was pleased with the ways that the school district has implemented technology and new teaching strategies.
"For me, it's very exciting, because I know what's ahead of him," Lara said.
As for Daniel, he said he was feeling good and looking forward to playing with his new classmates.
Daniel soon joined his peers in Yasmeen Ghazzawi's kindergarten class, where the students began their first day listening to calming music and coloring in a line drawing of an apple with crayons.
For Ghazzawi, the beginning of a new year brings the same mix of nerves and excitement that many kids and parents experience.
"(It's) a rollercoaster – lots of highs, some lows, but overall exciting," Ghazzawi said.