LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- More than 7,000 students at Jefferson County Public Schools returned to the classroom for the first time in over a year on Wednesday. Another 15,000 students will step foot into the classroom again on Thursday morning.
Many teachers reported their first day back during the pandemic went smoother than most were expecting.
It was an emotional day for Smyrna Elementary Principal Adrian Ford, seeing little masked faces and tiny backpacks parading down the hallways once again.
"We talk about with NTI, the trauma that some kids are experiencing being away from their school family," said Ford. "So just being back in person, and being able to connect and build those relationships, it's just so, so good to be back."
Kids in Group A in kindergarten through second grade remained socially distanced most of the time, although Ford said some of the little ones couldn't hide their excitement upon seeing their teachers — no longer through a screen, but in real life.
"When the kid comes up and wraps their arms around you, there's really nothing you can do but look around (Ford demonstrated with her arms up in the air, away from the student) and say, 'I love you, too, sweetheart.' And they go on. But it was great for the spirit."
Many schools were prepared with COVID protocols in place, before kids could even walk in the door.
"We drove up in the line, they had somebody to check their temperature, and then they were off into the building," said parent Rachel Koontz.
JCPS said schools reported no major issues throughout the day on Wednesday. With 4,000 bus riders on 700 bus routes, the district said all students were home by 5:55 p.m.
Elementary schools are preparing to welcome back even more students on Thursday morning, with Group B in grades K-5.
"We will have about double the amount of kids in our elementary schools," said Superintendent Marty Pollio. "We're going from about 7,200 students to 15,000 students, so it's a good progression for us."
Here’s when students will return to classrooms if they chose in-person learning:
- Wednesday: Elementary students in kindergarten through second grade with last names starting with letters A-K
- Thursday: Elementary students in kindergarten through fifth grade with last names starting with letters L-Z
- March 22: Elementary students in third through fifth grades and early childhood students with last names starting with letters A-K
- March 25: Early childhood students with last names starting with letters L-Z
- April 5: Middle and high school students with last names starting with letters A-K
- April 8: Middle and high school students with last names starting with letters L-Z
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