(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Monday morning was an unforgettable first day of school.
Students in the St. Joseph School District walked into their first day of school during a global pandemic. SJSD administrators said the students weren't the only ones feeling those first day jitters.
“It’s definitely something I will remember forever,” said Heather Gladhart, Coleman Elementary Principal.
Students stepped off their school bus wearing rain boots and masks. Teachers greeted the students with umbrellas as they escorted them inside Coleman Elementary school, preparing for a year filled with first times and unknowns.
“It’s not like any other first day anybody’s ever had. I think once everybody gets in and the process starts it’s like any other year, but right now it’s sure not,” said Dr. Doug Van Zyl, SJSP Superintendent.
Faculty and students are the only individuals allowed inside the school buildings, leaving parents to kiss their kids goodbye outside the school doors.
Kids walking into their classroom by themselves are facing a new world of spaced desks and their friends wearing facemasks.
“I bet they have all kinds of emotions going through them. I bet some of our students are really scared and unsure of the new surroundings,” said Gladhart.
While it's an unprecedented experience, Dr. Van Zyl said it's an experience students and staff have to get used to.
“You know, it’s something new for them. They’re used to seeing their teachers’ faces, they’re used to being able to hug each other, they’re used to being able to high five and those things are changing,” said Dr. Van Zyl.
That mixed bag of emotions is why administrators said they're focusing their first week back on developing those strong relationships right off the bat.
“We need to make sure that our kids know that we are here, that we care about them, that we love them,” said Gladhart.
While it's the first day of school for the history books, educators hoe this school year is relatively normal. Dr. Van Zyl said he hopes, "it's just like any school year, our students come in and get a real high-quality education and everybody stays safe and healthy and we have a fantastic year.”
However, administrators said if 2020 keeps up it's pattern, they said they anticipate the school year to be a challenging one. U
“My fear is probably like a lot of other peoples. At some point this year, we will probably be faced with students that are going to become ill, staff that are going to become ill and work through that, but I’m hoping today that they are just going to walk away with a smile on their face,” said Gladhart.
For a look at SJSD's up-to-date COVID-19 numbers, go to their website.