NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - On Wednesday morning Madison Sopko found herself among a crowd of bustling Wolverines, ready to start her Sophomore year at Woodside High School.
"[I'm] just happy to be back in person and, like, with everybody else," she said.
Any by "everybody," she means everybody. On Wednesday, Norfolk and Newport News Public Schools welcomed back all students and staff for in-person learning.
"I'm feeling nervous because like it's been a year since we've been in school so it's something different. It feels weird," said one student.
Something else that may also feel weird this year, is the fact that everyone inside school buildings must wear a mask regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
According to NNPS, all students and staff are also required to conduct a self-assessment/health screening at the start of each day. You can keep track of the latest COVID health metrics online.
News 3 reporter Erin Miller spoke with Superintendent Dr. George Parker about the changes as he visited Passage Middle School.
"We've invested quite a bit into air purification systems and ventilation improvements so we feel we're readily equipped," he said. "We're ready in terms in the training and the equipment and the processes necessary to maintain safety. What we have to encourage is that everyone continues to support those safety measures,"
Dr. Parker said another thing the school district is going to be keeping their eyes on this year, in addition to COVID-19, is transportation as the nation still faces a shortage of bus drivers.
"We are short on staff in terms that buses are concerned so bus drivers are running multiple routes so patience is the key today. We've had a few delays but nothing significant that impacts school operations in a negative way," said Dr. Parker. "We'll have to recap on how the day went and improve on our performance, make sure we can fill in any gaps with our transportation schedules and elsewhere."
Back at Woodside, community partner, City On My Chest made sure students started the day with a little motivation. Owner Tommy Reamon Jr., and his team, played music and handed out free merchandise to students who won the raffle.
"City On My Chest is all about empowering the community. I wanted to get these kids pumped up for the first day of school," said Reamon Jr. "I had to start right here in my community, that's what City On My Chest is all about. Before we can change the world we have to start right here in our backyard."
City On My Chest is located at the Patrick Henry Mall in the Food Court.