CMSD Parents Excited But Wary On Their Children's First Day Of School
Updated: 5:43 p.m., Monday, Aug. 23, 2021
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District welcomed students back to the classroom for full time in-person classes on Monday. For many parents and guardians who were dropping off students onto campus after more than a year of remote learning, it was exciting to see their children greet old friends and teachers.
However, with COVID-19 and the delta variant looming, their joy and excitement was expressed through a twinkle in their eye, rather than a smile on their face, as they adhere to CMSD’s mask policy for all students, staff and visitors.
Rebecca Ortiz dropped off her 10-year-old son at Tremont Montessori School for his first day of fifth grade, excited for him to get back to “some normalcy.” But like most parents, she’s fearful of the ongoing pandemic and the highly transmissible delta variant.
“Other than that, I'm excited for him to be back in class, because I kept him home all last year,” Ortiz said. “So, he didn't get to go to violin and there was no rec and there were no friends outside of the virtual situation we were dealing with last year.”
Parents chat after dropping off their students at Campus International K-8 School on Monday, excited to have their kids back in the classroom. [Jenny Hamel / Ideastream Public Media]
Ortiz said she gave her son a first-day-of-school tutorial — a “long speech” she called it — about being cautious.
“He's excited to be around friends. You know, I gave him a long speech about washing your hands, keeping your hands more to yourself. You know, usually they'll touch, tag, and all that. And he can't do that this year, like, always keep washing your hands, 20-25 seconds,” Ortiz said.
Giovani Vargas, who brought two younger cousins to Tremont Montessori to start the fall semester was less worried about the threat of COVID-19.
“You know, hopefully delta variant is just another strand of coronavirus, something that we've kind of been dealing with for the last over a year now,” Vargas said. “And I think we're pretty equipped to deal with it, especially the schools. They take extra precautions.”
Getting the girls back into the classroom was important to Vargas on a social-emotional level.
“At the end of the day, there's nothing like being in front of the teacher in a classroom, interacting with other kids. And my little cousins are going into seventh and third grade. They're at that age where they just need that interaction with other kids before they become teenagers,” Vargas said.
At Campus International School near Downtown Cleveland, parent Emma Thomas said her 7-year-old son, who is starting second grade, has “seen COVID first hand,” after she caught it this summer. Being sick with the coronavirus was “rough,” she said.
“It was hard for him not to touch me or to come in the room with me,” Thomas said. “I just told him to keep his mask on [at school] so he don’t get sick, like me.”
CMSD CEO Eric Gordon, who spent the first day of the fall semester visiting schools across the district, said the staff is excited to have the students back full time, in person, five days a week. But Gordon said it must be done safely, pointing to the five week mask policy which mandates mask wearing for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccinatation status, while inside school buildings.
"We're excited about being able to live inside of the pandemic instead of having to hunker down like we did last year,” CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said. [Jenny Hamel / Ideastream Public Media]
“And you'll see kids are all wearing their masks. Adults are wearing their masks,” Gordon said. “We're using a three foot social distancing rule where possible. We won't exclude a child because of that, but we're trying to keep socially distanced. We have markers throughout the building, hand sanitizer stations, frequent hand washing, a temperature check when you come in the building.”
CMSD will hold coronavirus vaccination clinics this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The district will also be offering voluntary swab testing for students to “stay ahead of COVID.”
“So safety is top of mind, but we’re excited about being able to live inside of the pandemic instead of having to hunker down like we did last year,” Gordon said.