LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Teachers say the first day of school is one of the most exciting days of the year, but this year that excitement is mixed with nervousness because of all the changes COVID-19 has brought into the classrooms.
Tuesday was the first day back for teachers in the Lee County district and it was quite different than many 'first days' in the past.
"It's like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve seen many things and done many things, but nothing ever like this," says Mary Jean Cooper, a teacher at Spring Creek Elementary.
After months of waiting, teachers like Mary were finally allowed back into the classrooms they hadn't been inside since March. Teachers are preparing for the different versions of school Lee County is offering beginning August 31.
Over 95 thousand students will be split between face-to-face learning in the classrooms, Lee Home Connect, Lee Virtual School, and Lee Homeschool.
Teachers were able to choose whether or not they wanted to have students in their classes or only teach virtual classes.
Mary, who is entering her 27th year as a school teacher, chose to teach students in person.
"I just wanted to be back at school around my colleagues and around the children. I thought it was important to be together again," says Cooper.
To prepare, Principal Diane Sherman, says she is going around to each classroom to help teachers place the desks at least six-feet apart. Once kids return, it will be the teachers enforcing the safety rules in the classroom.
"We’re going to be encouraging students to wear their masks throughout the day and trying to follow all of the safety procedures to keep our kids and ourselves safe," says Alex Gonzalez, a teacher at Spring Creek Elementary.
On the other side of the school, Denise Castro is entering her first year of teaching and she will only connect with her students online.
"I’m so excited! I wish I could see them so I could hug them and just get to know them face-to-face," says Castro. "Even though it is online, I’m still going to try to build those relationships that we know are so important."
Spring Creek teachers went through training today to help them get adjusted to the virtual or social distance learning styles.