Oakland's first day back to school had in-person learning and masks

Monday was the first day of school for Oakland's 49,000 public school students.

After months of planning, all schools opened for in-person learning.

Students letting out from Emerson Elementary School got a hug from their parents and gave the much anticipated first day back good reviews.

"When I saw my bestie on the playground I was really excited. I was jumping up and down," said fourth-grader Rikkea Emery.

"It was 'funner' and easier than normal," said Woodrow George, also a fourth-grader.

This was the first time in a year and half that students received full-in-person instruction. No hybrids, no cohorts, and no lessons over Zoom.

There were, however, masks; mandatory for everyone who steps inside a school.

"It wasn't actually that bad. That's just me," said Woodrow.

"I don't like it," said one kindergartner.

While the Oakland Unified School District is encouraging COVID vaccines for those who are eligible, it is not mandatory. Teachers are required to undergo regular COVID tests even if they are vaccinated.

Still, some parents admitted to being apprehensive about sending their students off to school.

"I'm nervous. All the news I was reading about the variant. I know there are kids who are not careful enough," said parent Martha Orellano.

California Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond toured an Oakland elementary school with Mayor Libby Schaaf and district officials.

"Even though there are many challenges facing us with the variant, this school district has taken into account the needs of our students and put all the safety measures in place," Thurmond said.

Those measures include deep cleanings, air purifiers in all the rooms, and asking parents to keep their children at home if they are ill.

"I'm concerned. I want to know if they have a contingency plan," said parent Terry Thomas.

"I'm feeling really good. Our teachers and staff have done a great job getting ready," said parent Emily George.

The school district reports 850 students have opted for distance learning. That's less than 2% of the school population.