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Students and staff are excited to be together once again for the third school year altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MIA RYDER-MARKS - Students at Meridian Creek Middle School gather Wednesday to kick off the new academic year. With new outfits and backpacks weighted with crisp school supplies, mask-adorned students popped from backseats and streamed from yellow school buses Wednesday morning, bounding towards their friends gathered around the front of Meridian Creek Middle School in Wilsonville.

Calls of "have a good day" drifted through the air, mixing in with the chatter of students and staff. MIA RYDER-MARKS - Two students embrace one another on the first day of school.

On Wednesday, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District opened its classroom doors and commenced the third school year altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We were so incredibly excited to see all of our students back in school today. Students, staff and families across the district did a fantastic job of implementing protocols and partnering for a successful first day of learning," Andrew Kilstrom, director of communications of the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, said in an email.

Aylin Cabrera, a sixth-grader, sat patiently on a bench near the front doors, waiting to enter the building that held the next three years of her life.

"I'm a little bit nervous," she said, but is "excited to meet new people and make friends."

After spending a majority of her final year of elementary school learning from her home, she said she was ready to get back to the classroom, despite the school year "feeling a bit different with all the masks."

MIA RYDER-MARKS - Parents walk their child to Meridian Creek Middle School for their first day.

Last spring, Meridian Creek and other schools across the district provided hybrid learning for students to accommodate COVID-19 safety regulations while allowing students the opportunity to get back in the classroom. The grade levels were split by "A" and "B" days, switching back and forth between in-person and distance learning.

This year, Meridian Creek welcomes its student body, of just over 400, at full capacity. Students and staff are required to wear masks and follow distancing regulations. However, following CDC guidelines is a small price for the payback of students and staff being together once again.

"I've been really anxious to have them back, and I'm ready for the school to not be so quiet," said Secretary Edyta Jacobson. "I'm so excited today."

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