LOUISA COUNTY, Va. -- Students in Louisa County returned to the classroom Wednesday morning, and, for many, it was the first time back in the building in more than a year.
"Everyone's eyes are gleaming this morning with excitement, the families and the students. It's a great day," described Superintendent Doug Straley.
95% of Louisa students have opted for five days a week of in-person learning, compared to just 40% last year. The other five percent chose to attend the LCPS Virtual Academy.
"The last 17 months of schooling has looked different for our students, and just to get them back five days a week is crucial and keeping them in school," said Straley. "This is probably the most important year in the history of education, in my opinion.”
Before students enter the building, teachers conduct temperature checks, and, once inside, social distancing markers and hand sanitizer stations line the hallways.
"You need to wear a mask," said Principal Lee Downey over the Louisa County High School loud speaker. "It’s a non negotiable."
In addition to masking, three feet of physical distancing is recommended, and breakfast and lunches are done in stations to avoid all students using the cafeteria.
"We're trying to be as healthy and safe inside the building by following the mitigation strategies that we have in place and doing the best we can with that," Downey explained,
Students didn't seem to mind the added safety measures Wednesday morning, as seniors like Emma McGhee said they are just excited to be back in the building.
“I would rather have to wear a mask all day and be a couple feet away from my friends and be able to be here, instead of sitting at home learning from a computer," McGhee noted.
The volleyball player and future medical school student said she's relieved her senior year is going to be somewhat normal compared to last year.
"My classes are so big, and I’m seeing everyone I didn’t get to see at all last year," she explained. "So, it’s as normal as we can get right now."
Straley said the district has additional counselors on staff to help students cope with some of the trauma they’ve experienced this past year.
"We have the best team in America, and I’m so excited for our staff and so proud of our staff for all they’ve done," he explained.
As for the mask policy, Straley noted they will continue to follow CDC guidance and will evaluate their policy if things change.