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New Shoes, Backpacks, And Face Masks: Students Back For First Day Of Full-Day, In-Person School In Riverside

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — It's the first day of school in Riverside, and students are ready with their new shoes, backpacks, and face masks.

Most schools across Southern California will reopen full-time and for in-person learning this year, more than 17 months after the coronavirus pandemic shut campuses down. After a year of virtual learning, then hybrid-in-person classes, most students are returning to school, eager for the return of recess and lunch with their friends.

riverside first day of school
(credit: CBS)

For kindergarteners, it's typical to find an unfamiliar classroom, new faces, and a routine that takes some getting used to. But even the big kids returning to Harrison Elementary School in Riverside will need some time to adjust – students this year are being required to wear masks indoors and are also encouraged to keep them on outside. The district is also requiring students to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms.

"Because he can't get a vaccine, that's nerve wracking," mother Kirsten Power said. "But the fact that they do the temperature checks before and make them wear their masks and wash hands with sanitizer, it's as safe as they can make it."

Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and an ongoing surge in transmission across the country – especially among unvaccinated young people – has many parents worried. During the last week of July, nearly one in five new positive cases were in kids.

But those worries are outweighed by concerns that children are falling behind academically and socially. So Principal Clarissa Brown says safety is the school's top priority at this time.

"We gotta get kids right, in their hearts and minds, feeling safe and comfortable, before learning can continue," Brown said.

She says counselors are being made available to help students dealing with heightened social anxiety or trauma due to the pandemic, along with any increased learning challenges.

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