HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Thousands of students and staff returned to learn on Tuesday in Hampton Roads, including in Hampton, Portsmouth, Isle of Wight, Suffolk, Chesapeake and Accomack.
10 On Your Side was in Hampton and Portsmouth to see students and talk to teachers and administrators.
Early Tuesday, masked students reported back to Christopher C. Kraft Elementary School in Hampton.
“So excited, so excited to finally welcome all of the schools back into the building,” said Dr. Kara Plank, who is the school’s principal.
It’s been a long year and a half for many districts, and those like Plank are looking forward to seeing more kids back in their classrooms.
“Just all being together again,” she said. “Throughout the pandemic, all our students shined individually but now we’ll be able to shine together.”
The district is offering two virtual options: Virtual Virginia, which is full, and Edgenuity, which has a waitlist for the fall 2021 semester. Still, parents or guardians who are interested in virtual learning for their students can be added to the waitlist by completing an intent form. Click here for more information on virtual learning in Hampton schools.
Kellie Goral with Hampton City Schools says the district has 19,000 students. Approximately 850 are signed up for virtual learning.
For those who chose in-person learning, the district has taken safety measures including mask-wearing, air purifiers for classrooms, desks shields, scheduled bathroom breaks, and social distancing.
First grade teacher Sara Forrest made something special for her students to practice social distancing.
“I tried to do something a little different this year because we have to keep them 3 feet apart. I made their desks into little cars, so their desk shield is like the windshield in the classroom. I wanted to do something to make them comfortable. It is a different situation,” she said.
Forrest says for some of her students, it will actually be their first time in a classroom since they are coming from kindergarten.
She’s excited to welcome them.
“Just really being able to have that relationship again. To have my class with my students and watch them grow and having them day one in person,” Forrest said.
The district will be monitoring conditions throughout the year as well as following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Virginia Department of Health guidelines in case they need to transition from in-person learning to virtual.
Plank says teachers and students are asked to do a health assessment every morning before coming to school and also do another check in their homerooms.
“That’s so important,” she said about making sure students and staff stay safe. “We’re excited to welcome everyone back in the building but we want to be able to remain in the building as much as possible. So, just being vigilant and aware of ourselves and others so we can make appropriate decisions.”
To keep up to date with the district’s COVID dashboard, click here.
Meanwhile, in Portsmouth, 10 On Your Side, many young people were glad to be back after learning from home for so long.
I.C. Norcom alums cheered students as they stepped into the new school year Tuesday.
“Homecoming, prom, the games, football games, basketball games, and then learning more stuff because I’m in [Tidewater Community College] now,” said Jreeme Thornton-Pretlow, an I.C. Norcom senior.
Her mother, Latasha Thornton, is a teacher at the high school.
“I’m looking forward to just that face-to-face contact, being able to do those assignments with the students and the projects… Just to be able to have that compassion and being with our kids,” she said.
Last year was rough for the two with all-online classes.
“Sometimes I didn’t even want to sit at my desk at home. I would do my schoolwork in the bed,” said Jreeme Thornton-Pretlow.
Now both are fully vaccinated, and they feel more comfortable.
Over 2,400 students in Portsmouth have started the vaccination process, according to the school’s epidemiologist.
It’s comforting news for freshman Gabby Ingram and her mother, Amy.
“We’ve started the vaccinations for her, I’m fully vaccinated myself. I appreciate the masks. I wish more people the kids would wear them properly,” Amy Ingram said.
But masks are no problem for Gabby Ingram. She can’t wait to take more selfies and enjoy this school year.
“It’s different but it’s finally time that we can actually learn and maybe actually graduate high school,” said Gabby Ingram.