Masked students head back to class for first day at San Jose schools

The South Bay’s largest school district is also the latest in the Bay Area to welcome students, who wore masks, back to campus Wednesday.

"We’re happy to wear them. hopefully they’ll come out with a vaccine soon," said Ana, the mother of a five-year-old Kindergarten student at Willow Glen Elementary School.

For the first time in two years, the San Jose Unified School Districts saw all of its campuses opened at the close of business on the first day of school.

It’s a relief for students and parents, who’ve endured a year of learning while combating a global pandemic.

"Yes, (my son’s) excited. Excited to see his teachers again, and his friends again. And kind of, get away from um, being stuck in front of the computer all day," said Almaden Elementary School parent Jason Ly.

District officials say this year, all 27,000 students and school staff are required to wear masks on campus. Social distancing is encouraged. And building ventilation systems have been cleaned or enhanced..

"I think things are gonna run fairly, as they would in the past. It’s just, you’re gonna see everyone walking with masks," said SJUSD spokeswoman Jennifer Maddox.

Experts say the return to the normal routine is essential in limiting learning regression from a year of virtual attendance, with little to no personal interaction.

"It’s particularly important for the younger students, because from an attention perspective, it’s very difficult for students to really sit in front of a computer and really have the concentration for a long time," said Prof. Cindy Gallatin, chief of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Univ. of New Haven.

While the district is back to in-person learning, part of its safeguards mean students who are COVID-positive, or who may have been exposed to the virus will do independent studies.

"The teacher will be giving them assignments and work that they can complete at home," said Maddox. Added Ana, "I think they’re very organized and they have all the protocols down. And it’s safe."

School district officials say there were no major problems with the first day of class.

Some parents reported slight confusion and delays in getting their kids registered -- which took place outside of district headquarters not inside – due to COVID-19 restrictions.