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COVID: First Day Back On Campus At San Rafael Elementary School Triggers Range Of Emotions

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX) - As other schools celebrate the return of students on a hybrid, part-time basis, the San Rafael Unified School District has gone all in, bringing all elementary students back to campus together.

What does it say about what we've been through that Monday's classes at Laurel Dell School felt different, simply because they felt normal?

"Today was as normal as the school year has felt, having the entire school," said Principal Pepe Gonzalez. "You had that buzz back, the families dropping off, people taking pictures of themselves in front of the school…it felt like the first day of school!"

The district brought kids back on a hybrid schedule back in November, but now, all elementary students in the district are back in class together, 5 days a week. No more 'half in the morning, half in the afternoon,' and no more Zoom classes.

"Today was the first day they all got to see each other in person for the first time in over a year," said first grade teacher Molly O'Donoghue. "So, there was a ton of excitement in the air that made it definitely different than last Friday!"

The rooms have been reconfigured and ventilation improved. There are plastic screens, sanitizing stations and tape markers everywhere to show students where to go and where to stand, even while they're waiting to board the school bus. It's all part of the new School Site Safety Protection Plans or, as they're affectionately known, the "Triple-S Double-P's"

"People need to reference them when things come up," said O'Donoghue, "If we need to modify something we need to look at our 'Triple-S Double-P's' to make sure that we're doing things by the book."

Fifth grader Filomeno Martinez said he looks forward to having a longer recess under the new schedule, but he admits it's going to take a while to get used to things.

"There's a lot of kids, more than usual. Everything felt packed and I wasn't used to it because we haven't been," he said. "It kind of creeped me out."

It's going to take some time for most people to feel normal again. But the first ones to do it will probably be the kids.

The district still has an online, remote learning program for those who request it, but the elementary schools themselves are now offering only in-person instruction. They point out that since resuming on-campus learning in November, there has been no outbreaks of COVID-19 at any of their schools.

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