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CMSD Parents Excited but Wary As Children Go Back to School

Students get off a CMSD school bus
Jenny Hamel
Cleveland Metropolitan School District students hop off the bus for their first day of school, after more than a year of learning remotely.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District welcomed students into the classroom full-time on Monday, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Many parents and guardians were dropping off students onto campus after more than a year of remote learning.

While they were excited to watch children greet old friends and teachers, the pandemic's impact continues. CMSD is requiring masks for all students, staff and visitors due to the Delta variant that has been spreading rapidly throughout Ohio. Students had to express their joy and excitement through a twinkle in their eye, rather than a smile on their face.

Rebecca Ortiz dropped her 10-year-old son off 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 wary of COVID-19 and the Delta variant.  

“Other than that, I'm excited for him to be back in class, because I kept him home all last year. 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,” said Ortiz.

Jenny Hamel
Parents chat after dropping off their students at Campus International K-8 School on Monday, excited to have their kids back in the classroom.

Ortiz said she gave her son a first-day-of school tutorial before he started his first day of 5th grade.  She called it a “long speech” 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 7th and 3rd grade. They're at that age where they just need that interaction with other kids before they become teenagers. They never had that,” Vargas said.

Parent Emma Thomas said her 7-year-old son, who started 2nd grade at Campus International Elementary School Monday, has “seen COVID first hand,” because she caught it this summer.  She said being sick with the coronavirus was “rough.”

“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 numerous schools in the district, said the staff is really 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 mask policy for at least the next five weeks, which mandates mask wearing for all students, staff and visitors, vaccinated or not, while inside school buildings.

Jenny Hamel
"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. 

“And you'll see kids are all wearing their masks. Adults are wearing their masks. 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.”

Gordon said CMSD is going to hold vaccine 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.

Copyright 2021 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”