It took a year.
After COVID-19 forced the 2020-2021 school year away from the classrooms, the scene in the schools of Quincy and George was a lot different during the first day of school in 2021.
Parents showed up, teachers showed up, and most important, the children showed up, albeit masked, to partake in what they hope to be is a full year of in-class learning.
In many ways, this looked a lot like any other start of school, with long walks into the building, teachers greeting their new pupils, and lots of parents preserving the moment for posterity, using their smartphones.
Tiffany Viall, principal at Mountain View Elementary praised her school’s staff for turning the first day of school into a happy experience, despite the masks.
“They did a wonderful job,” Viall said. “Our talented staff concentrated in creating a welcoming environment, and both students and staff did a wonderful job following our safety protocols.”
As always, and perhaps more than usual, recess was the big star of the day. After a 2020-2021 school year that was low on personal contact, having the chance to play again felt great.
“Staff was just jubilant watching them play together,” Viall said, later adding, “We were definitely ready for this year to start.”
At George Elementary, Principal Manuel Ramos described the first day of school as amazing.
“For a lot of our families who have kids who are a little bit older, they missed that welcoming piece, that part that says ‘feel free to come in and escort your student to their classroom,’” he said. “Last year they didn’t have that opportunity and it was hard for me to tell parents to wait outside.”
This year, they did come in and now is the time to build those relationships back after one year of mostly remote learning.
“It’s all about those relationships,” Ramos said. “You gotta have that bridge between the community and the school. We are all in this together.”
It’s unknown if Angel Lopez and Jaden Zendejas got wind of Ramos’ words but they did take them to heart. Not only did they show up together to their first day of school, they showed up in identical outfits, courtesy of their mom.
“I like to mix and match,” said Viridiana Zendejas with a smile. (For photos of the identically attired siblings and more, check out page 10.)
A different kind of mix-and-match was what Maria Garibay was feeling as she took photos of her daughter Miranda on her first day of kindergarten.
“I’m very sad, my baby is off to school,” Garibay said, while Miranda smiled from ear to ear. “She’s very happy.”
Miranda could not stop smiling, a reaction much different from that of her older sibling, Sofia, who struggled with her first day of school when it happened five years ago, Garibay said.
“Miranda got to go to preschool, and Sofia did not so she knew what was coming today,” Garibay said in Spanish.
The change of having to show up at school with a mask was stressful at first, but not anymore, Garibay said.
Just a few yards away from where Garibay was trying to keep her emotions in check fellow mom Guadalupe Perez tried to remember what it all felt like.
Her daughter Sophia walked hand-in-hand with her and with her dad Oscar Cardenas, getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. The last time Guadalupe did this walk, it was 13 years ago.
“It’s a gift from God to do this again,” Perez said. Oscar Cardenas agreed, even after helping raise five children.
“It still feels like the first time,” he said.