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COVID: Over 20,000 East Side Union High School District Students Return To In-Person Learning

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – There were more than first-day jitters at the East Side Union High School District in San Jose as more than 20,000 students returned to in-person learning for the first time in nearly a year and a half.

There were legitimate, lingering concerns about health and safety.

"My mom is an at-risk person so I feel kind of uncomfortable. But I feel if I have to do it (return to class) then I have to do it," Victoria Gomez, a senior at Mount Pleasant High School, told KPIX 5.

The school system has put a number of safety measures in place, including installing advanced filtration systems in all of its high schools.

East Side Union High School District Back To School
Students in the East Side Union High School District board a bus on the first day of school, August 10, 2021. (CBS)

Students and staff are required to wear masks at all times indoors. Additionally, teachers must provide proof of vaccination or test weekly. But if students and their parents are still not comfortable returning to campus in person, Superintendent Glenn Vander Zee said they can opt for independent study.

"It is very much what its name suggests -- it's an independent study program. Where a large part of the work is done independently. And families and students going into that need to know that there is a difference," Vander Zee told KPIX 5.

All of the students in East Side Union are old enough to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the school system is not currently requiring or tracking vaccinations.

Vaccinated students say they feel they have an extra layer of protection.

"The vaccination gives me a sense of comfort that maybe I'm not going to get as sick as I would even if other people aren't vaccinated," said Yesenia Harvey.

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