New school year, with mandates and safety measures, officially starts for many East County schools

COURTESY PHOTO: CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT - Centennial School District Superintendent James Owens and Butler Creek Elementary School Teacher Mrs. Hendrickson on the first day of school.  Wearing their first-day-of-school outfits and carrying brightly colored backpacks filled with new supplies, East County students made their return Tuesday, Sept. 7, to in-person schooling.COURTESY PHOTO: REYNOLDS SCHOOL DISTRICT - Reynolds Superintendent of Schools Danna Diaz learning names of students at Glenfair Elementary.

Although there were familiar scenes, like long lines of cars waiting at student drop-off areas, there were also new sights. Students, as per state mandates, were wearing masks as they entered their classrooms for their first-day and sanitizer stations were positioned near entrances of buildings.

Even with the many precautions schools are taking to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread, many students and educators are just thrilled to be back in the classroom.

"The Gresham-Barlow School District is excited to be welcoming students back to school for full-time, in-person instruction," James Hiu, Gresham-Barlow Acting Superintendent, said. "We have protocols in place designed to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for our students and staff,"

Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall joined Hiu in celebrating the first-day festivities as they welcomed students into school on Tuesday, Sept 7, at North Gresham Elementary.

Reynolds Superintendent of Schools, Danna Diaz, also made visits to multiple Reynold's schools on the first day. COURTESY PHOTO: CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT - Junior Adabell Martinez promotes her club, Future Business Leaders of America, to freshmen during their first day of school at Centennial High School.

"We are so happy to welcome students back to in-person learning at Reynolds School District," Diaz said. "I am proud of the hard work that our teachers and staff did to prepare to welcome students safely back to class."

Centennial Superintendent James Owens hoped that familiarity of going back to school will make the transition back to in-person learning easier for students. "It's great to have staff and students back and to feel the collective energy and enthusiasm that comes with the start of a new school year," Owens said. "While we are not yet back to 'normal', having students return to our campuses provides a stronger sense of normalcy than we've had over the past year and a half."

Student Perspective

The same day, Centennial High School welcomed incoming freshmen for their first day. Although her first day isn't until Wednesday, Sept 8, Junior Adabell Martinez came to school a day early to promote her club to her new classmates. The junior said she did well last year during distance and hybrid learning, but is excited for full time in-person classes and a more familiar school year. COURTESY PHOTO: REYNOLDS SCHOOL DISTRICT - H.B. Lee Middle School sixth-grader Guadalupe sanitizing her hands before she finds her classroom.

"I am looking forward to seeing my friends, but I am also excited to go to school events that we missed last year," Martinez said. "Mainly football games, soccer games and school dances."

The threat of COVID-19 still lingers and is something Martinez can't help to worry about.

"So I am kind of nervous depending on how many people are going to be there during lunch," Martinez said. " It was nice to see how they were enforcing the mask mandate and seating though."

Martinez got vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as she could and believes with her shot and consistent mask wearing she will be safe going to school in-person. As of now, Martinez's main focus is getting used to her morning routine, which is a little different now that she has to be in a physical classes.

"I am just getting used to the schedules again," Martinez said jokingly. "During distance (learning), I just had to walk over to my computer in the morning." COURTESY PHOTO: GRESHAM-BARLOW SCHOOL DISTRICT  - Gresham-Barlow Interim Superintendent James Hiu and Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall waved to incoming students to ring in the new year at North Gresham Elementary.

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