While walking to B.D. Gullett Elementary for the first day of school Aug. 17, Dagmara Niedzielski and her daughter, Sophie, saw a double rainbow.
Sophie Niedzielski, who is a second grader, took the double rainbow as a sign of good luck for the start of this school year.
“It was unusual because our last walk [to school] was in March,” Dagmara Niedzielski said. “It was a lot of emotions. When [Sophie] saw the double rainbow, though, she was like ‘Oh my God, it’s a double rainbow, and I’m in second grade.’”
Thousands of students and their families in East County were hoping for the best as they started their first day of school either in person or at home with e-learning. Families had the option to have their students return to school fully, participate in a hybrid schedule or do e-learning full time. A hybrid schedule has students in person at school two days per week and at home with e-learning three days per week.
Although Niedzielski has concerns about her daughter having to wear a mask most of the day and the possibility of schools closing due to COVID-19, she’s optimistic everything will go well because Gullett has implemented new measures to keep students safe and healthy.
Some of the new protocols at Gullett and several East County schools include students and staff wearing masks, putting dividers on tables to help separate students and maintaining social distancing.
Amy Lowrance and her daughter, Sophie, who is a third grader at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary, biked to school.
“It’s great to get out on our bikes again and get some exercise while getting to school,” Amy Lowrance said.
Sophie Lowrance was excited to meet her teacher and see her friends again. She hasn’t seen them since schools closed in March due to COVID-19.
Instead of walking into Tara Elementary School, Alejandro Acosta, a fifth grader at Tara, logged onto his computer at home and watched a video of his teachers, Megan Harris and Jennifer Scheid, welcoming him to his first day of full-time e-learning.
“It is so far so good,” said Colleen Reinert, Acosta’s mother. “We’re just taking it one step at a time and going with the flow at this point. We’re looking forward to staying connected with the school, his teachers and his friends to the best of our ability through the online platform we’re using.”
Acosta had a Bitmoji of both Scheid and Harris on the desk next to his computer. Bitmojis are cartoon icons people create to look like themselves.
“The teachers have said to keep them on your desk as a reminder that we’re here with you,” Reinert said. “Alejandro has surprisingly had them on the desk and has been looking and playing with them all day so far.”
Acosta was looking forward to the different field trips and opportunities fifth graders have at Tara Elementary, but with the potential for school closures and having to change learning modalities, Reinert thought it would be best to start the year with full-time e-learning.
“It was definitely a little sad having him log onto a computer and watch a video of his teachers welcoming him,” Reinert said. “He was going into fifth grade and excited about some of the things he was going to be doing this year, but due to COVID-19, a lot of those things have changed. I told him it’s just a point in time, not a lifetime. He’ll be back in school at some point.”