Children lined the chalk-decorated sidewalks outside of Waverly School Tuesday morning for the first day of school, some donned in sparkly backpacks, light up shoes and rainbow masks.
The last time these kids started in person school in the fall was two years ago. Because of the COVID pandemic students attended school virtually until April of this year, when they returned only for a month and a half.
This year, some kids were feeling the first-day jitters, others were excited to see their friends, but all were ready to get back to the classroom instead of the Chromebook.
“I never wanted online school, only in person,” said Max Britain, who is entering fifth grade. His mom, Jamie Britain, said that virtual learning last year had been a challenge. Technical difficulties and the lack of social interaction in online school created added stressors for everyone during the pandemic.
Other fifth-graders were sad that it was their last year at Waverly, since the jump from third to fifth grade felt like no time at all given they were not on campus for most of it.
Hadleigh Baker, who is starting second grade, stood with her mom and brother as she waited to meet her teacher.
“I’m excited to learn new stuff,” she said. Her mom agreed that in-person learning will be a huge improvement over being at home, as it was hard for Hadleigh to engage with students and absorb information in a virtual classroom.
Waverly principal Melanie Casprowiak greeted students outside and helped direct them to their classrooms. She said the school held an ice cream social last week, which allowed her to get to know some students before the chaos of the first day. There are about 260 students enrolled at Waverly, and Casprowiak expects about twenty more to join.
“Today I’m reading a picture book to the little ones about how everyone’s name is special,” she said. “I have a chapter book for the older ones.”
Casprowiak said that both parents and children are excited to be back on campus after such a long time away from the school community. In order to make in-person learning work, though, kids must wear masks on the sidewalks outside of school and while they’re in the classroom.
Alison Fletcher, who is starting third grade, had a clip-on hand sanitizer attached to her backpack in preparation for the increased handwashing/sanitizing that kids are well accustomed to at this point. For many, these hand sanitizer cases and face coverings are just another way to show their personality in the first day of school outfit.
Tuesday was the first day of school in Greater Albany Public Schools for first- through sixth- graders, seventh- and eighth-graders at Timber Ridge Middle School and all high school freshmen. Wednesday was the first day for everyone else except for kindergarten, which starts Monday.
Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.