Some students are back in the classroom this week in the Santa Maria Valley. Tuesday marked the first day back on campus for seniors in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.
Seniors were greeted with cheers and smiles from administrators, something many of them said was a good feeling after using Zoom for many months now.
"I feel like it's overdue, and I was so excited that I didn't sleep last night,” said Shanda Herrera, Pioneer Valley High School Principal.
For now, seniors, with the exception of a few other students in different grades, are the only ones allowed back on campus throughout the different schools in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.
This hybrid model divides students into two groups by alphabetical order:
Monday: all distance learning
Tuesday & Thursday: Seniors (A-La)
Wednesday & Friday: Seniors (Le-Z)
"All of us as educators have been practicing and learning what is going to be the safest way to bring the kids back and now that we are there, I feel like it's really important for our seniors to have that closure,” Herrera said.
Senior Raven Harris has been looking forward to this moment all school year.
"I am glad that we are actually able to come back and enjoy it. Even though it's not with my whole class, that's okay but I still get to enjoy it, come back and just have the full high school experience before I have to leave to college,” Harris said.
Although teachers have to juggle between Zoom and in person-learning throughout the day, they are happy to have students back.
"It is, it's nice to see them and they seem to be excited to be back on campus as well and we are trying to make this a fun day for them,” said Annette MacCuish, Pioneer Valley High School English teacher.
School officials say, for now, they are re-assessing at the end of every week to see if they should bring back additional grades. But for now, seniors will get to end their year on campus.
"We wanted to at least give them the option to be able to do so and, again, to finish their high school experience in the best way possible,” said Antonio Garcia, SMJUHSD Superintendent.
In the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, students in preschool, transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade are also returning to in-person instruction this Tuesday and Wednesday.
Most students will be on campus for two days each week and continue distance learning on the other three days.
Grades 2nd-4th are scheduled to return to in-person instruction the week of April 26-30, 5th-7th graders will return the week of May 3-7, and 8th graders will return May 10-14.