NORFOLK, Va.— Students received a warm welcome back to Southside STEM Academy at Campostella after an entire year away.
Norfolk Public Schools remained closed throughout the pandemic, but now the first wave of students are meeting their teachers in-person for the first time Monday.
“I’ve only said hello this morning as they came in the door and it’s just hard to not run up and hug them and welcome them back,” said math specialist Jason Koonce.
Class is in session and in person for the first time in the district since schools Governor Ralph Northam ordered schools to close last March.
“They were like Miss Wallace you look smaller than you do you on the camera so it was exciting, they were excited,” said 2nd grade teacher Gail Wallace.
The day included a visit from Governor Ralph Northam, Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander and State Superintendent James Lane, among others.
Northam said school is the safest place for students to be.
“While the children have been out for a year, test scores have gone down, mental health issues have gone up and so we really need our children back in school,” he said.
Fully vaccinated teachers say they feel confident coming back to school during the pandemic to provide the face to face interaction so many students need.
“I think we’re going to meet the students where they are and we’re going to move forward so hopefully once we start—once we start in September will be able to bridge the gap," said Wallace.
PreK-5th graders, students with disabilities, and English learners who opted to come back to class are learning on a hybrid schedule with most students in school twice a week.
High school students are the last group to be phased back in on April 26.
Northam says the goal is to have all children back in class by the fall.