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Students follow Laura Secrist around Strawberry Hill Elementary School on their way to their classrooms for the first day of school Aug. 31. Among them were Zoie Cunningham, Vanessa Bogran and Reese Petsche.

After more than five months without seeing students, outside of organized teacher and staff parades last spring, area schools got back in session at the end of August, with Midland returning Aug. 24, Olin Aug. 26 and Anamosa and Springville Aug. 31.

How exactly to get back to school and do it in a way that would protect both students and staff was a source of much discussion. With new protocols in place and doors back open, looking back on the first week, local principals had a common refrain, regardless of age group: they were just happy to be back.

At the elementary level, it was certainly an adjustment, but there were positive early returns.

“It’s going great so far,” Olin Elementary Principal Lindsey Given said. “Kids and staff are all adjusting well to the changes made. I think we are all just so happy to have some normalcy again.”

“We had many tired children and staff, to say the least, but we all feel better being back in session with the students,” Strawberry Hill Elementary Principal Ellen Recker said. “We have been planning, learning and making decisions over the past five months on how to best serve our students safely and provide the best educational strategies given the pandemic. I feel all the time and research we have devoted is going to pay itself forward.”

At Strawberry Hill, laying the groundwork for a success, especially when it comes to having students back face to face, means the first week was focused on getting students and staff in the routine of operating at a social distance so the year can continue.

At the secondary level, it was much of the same. Administrators expressed pride in both students and staff for making the adjustments necessary.

“Students, staff and families have been adhering to the guidelines we’ve asked them to follow, and we are actually even getting positive feedback on how we’ve structured the day. Students are enjoying seeing their teachers every day to get the content they need and then the time at home to continue their learning at their own pace,” Anamosa High School Principal Erin Thompson said. “Students are glad to be back in the building, and our staff is excited to see them!”

Anamosa Middle School Principal Linda Vaugh said while, expectedly, there might have been some kinks to work out on the first day, it was still “a great start to what will be a great school year” and she was proud of students, staff and the community as the year kicked off.

In Springville, Principal Nick Merritt said that he was pleased with how everyone from students, to staff and the community as a whole have been adjusting so far.

“Our students have been unbelievably great with everything, and as a staff, we couldn’t be more proud of the effort they are putting in to follow-through with our guidelines to make it work,” he said.

“I’d also say how appreciative we are of our community and parents to support our efforts. Lastly, our staff members have done a ton of work to adjust how they teach and how school looks and are prepared for about anything. It takes a lot of work to do that from all of our staff members (teachers and beyond) to make school happen. In general, it’s been a great team effort, and we are proud that things have gone well so far.”

Across the board, districts have put a lot of work in to try to make sure the proper protocols were put in place to make the year as successful as possible, and, so far, those efforts appear to be paying off.

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