The first day of school is often a milestone; however, during the pandemic, that exciting time of year hasn’t been the same.
Wednesday, the Atascadero Unified School District is one of the first districts on the Central Coast to start classes this school year.
“Great deal of excitement in our teaching staff and our community is fortunate to have some of the very best educators you could have," said Tom Butler, the district's superintendent.
Teachers collaborated and prepared for weeks and months before students returned on Wednesday.
All members of the campus community must wear masks indoors but not outdoors. This is the first semi-traditional first day of school since the pandemic started.
“We are fully open, full class sizes, all of the extracurriculars and co-curricular that we know our community and, of course, our students love, such as athletics and band, ag, after school classes for our elementary students,” added Butler.
There are 12 schools in the district, including high schools, elementary, middle and an adult continuation school.
“…About 97.5% percent give or take, have chosen to be in our in-person schools, traditional schools if you will, and the other percentages, about 2.5, made a decision to be in our independent study program,” Butler said.
Other school districts gearing up to start classes this week include Santa Maria Joint Unified, Santa Maria Bonita, Santa Ynez Valley, and Orcutt Unified.
In regards to other COVID-19 precautions, Butler discussed how they will inform people if there are positive cases as well as the sanitizing procedures.
“We'll be monitoring as we always did last year what's happening with either exposures to the coronavirus or positive cases and then we take all of the corrective actions through the contact tracing to notify people appropriately and also to clean and disinfect any of those areas appropriately so that we have safe schools,” he said.
This is just in time for another change in all California schools.
“All of the lunches will be provided free this year. That's kind of a new federal element that's in place and so anyone who needs a breakfast or a lunch, we're happy to be able to provide those," Butler said.
The free lunch program is a state-wide initiative launched back in July 2021 to provide free meals to all California students.