HOPEWELL, Va. -- Monday marked the first day of Hopewell City Public Schools "balanced calendar" -- a year-round learning schedule for students.
Music blasted through a speaker at Harry E. James Elementary School, as excited young learners returned to the building after their summer break.
“I want to see some of the teachers and give them the biggest hug ever," said first grader, Niyah Fisher.
The bubbly elementary schooler said virtual learning wasn't for her, and she's eager to see her friends and teachers in person.
“You can actually be with other people instead of being on a computer and seeing them behind the screen," Fisher explained.
Her mom, Brendale Cook, is one of several parents who told CBS 6 they are in support of the year-round calendar.
Cook is looking forward to her two daughters making up some of the learning she said they lost behind the screen.
“Last year was tragic for everybody, but I’m just glad they are able to come back to school so they catch up on their school work," said Cook. "I think that’s going to be awesome for those especially that have difficult in class, so that will help them out and help out kids the most."
The start to the new school year also comes with some safety precautions, as the district is requiring students to wear masks inside the building.
"Hopewell has done a phenomenal job making sure that we are safe," noted Hopewell High School Teacher Shelli Hinton. "A lot of the kids who I saw in the hall early this morning, I could tell they were smiling behind their mask, which was a great thing. They seem to have a new sense of energy about them."
Hinton has been a teacher for 32 years and has worked on the district's "balanced calendar" for the past three years.
"I’ve wanted to teach this way since the beginning of my career, so I’m super excited," she explained.
Hinton's hope is that moving forward the “summer slide” will become a thing of the past.
"We are going to have some kids that are behind the eight-ball, and it’s our job to make sure we meet them where their needs are," said Hinton.
Hopewell is also offering a virtual option for parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their children back to school.
Hinton said around 100 of the high school’s more than 1,100 students are still learning from home.