On Monday morning, parents welcomed the sound of the school bell as students in grades 1 through 12 returned to classrooms across the City and Borough of Juneau.
Gray skies and light rain overhead did not dampen spirits as crossing guards, bus drivers, teachers, principals and paraprofessionals welcomed students back to campus. Parents straightened masks and provided last-minute advice to younger students before they entered open school doors.
“I’m ready, I’ve got the good ol’ school butterflies you’re supposed to have,” said William Sarandira, who is entering his first year as principal for Auke Bay Elementary School. “People are entering the building, so they made it.”
After two years marked by distance learning and schedule disruptions, it’s the first time many students have returned to the school building since the typical, in-person school schedule was suspended over COVID-19 concerns in March 2020.
Last school year, the first day of school took place online. Students across the district logged on for distance learning classes from home as part of the district’s response to COVID-19. In January, students started an optional, partial-return to in-person learning and gradually geared up to four in-person days each week. Wednesday’s were set aside for independent study. Staff continued to offer distance learning opportunities for students who were not comfortable returning to in-person school.
During last week’s school board meeting, Superintendent Bridget Weiss said that schools will meet in person each weekday and that activities will supplement classroom instruction.
“We know there will be a lot of social and emotional needs,” Weiss said during the school board meeting.
She said that COVID-19 mitigation protocols, including mask-wearing inside all school buildings, are a key to keep schools open and activities running smoothly.
“Activities are lifeline programs that are very important to our kids,” she said. “We have a collective responsibility to sustain in-person learning.”
Kindergarten starts on Thursday, Aug. 19, and preschool begins Tuesday, Aug. 24.
•Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-308-4891. Ben Hohenstatt contributed reporting to this article.