VAIL, Ariz. — Hundreds of Vail Unified School District students returned to school to kick off the district's new hybrid learning model.
To start off the school day, students and teachers arrived at Esmond Station K-8 for the first time in six months to temperature checks.
“[It's] definitely a relief to come back, “ said Mark Breen, father of two VUSD students.
Breen's two sons attend Vail Unified schools. They were learning from home for months, even taking their back to school photos in front of a computer screen.
He said the decision to send his kids back to school was tough.
“I think the decision wasn't necessarily an easy one and it's a very personalized decision for every family to make on their own, based on their own situation and their [level of comfort]. For us, we felt the school did a really good job of creating a safe environment so that was a major factor in our decision,” explained Breen.
With COVID-19 protocols in place, so strict KGUN9 cameras weren't allowed inside.
Governing Board member Allison Pratt said there will be extra cleaning procedures, social distancing, and mask requirements. Photos provided by the Vail Unified School District show what the first day looked like.
Dividers were noticeably placed up for the younger students who will be in the classroom four days per week, while the older students only spend two days in the classroom.
Pratt is also a parent and said the decision to return even if just for a hybrid model was based on Pima County metrics.
She explained that not all students have to return to the classroom.
“We understand circumstances are different for each family, not every family looks the same. So, families had three options actually they had an option to stay fully online with our, our vail innovation center,” she explained.
Another option accommodates parents who aren’t sure if now is the time— but they aren’t completely closing the door on returning to school.
For families like the Breen's who chose to return, the biggest decision ahead of school was choosing the right masks.
“It was just making sure we had lots of masks and really comfortable masks at this point we've tried out lots of different kinds of masks and just the, I think the main difference was the amount of time that we're going to be wearing masks is a lot longer than when we were just, you know, go out in public to go to the grocery store,” said Breen.
School districts around Southern Arizona continue to follow suit.
The Tucson Unified School District will meet to discuss whether metrics have been met or not met and whether or not it is recommended to reopen their schools.