SALT LAKE CITY — Monday was the first day of in-person learning for some students in the Salt Lake City School District. Pre-K, kindergarten and first graders all had the option to return to the classroom after months of online learning.
"It was hard for the kids to be far away," said Kristina Anger, who has a kindergartener and second grader at Uintah Elementary School. "They missed in person interaction, they missed being motivated by a classroom and by their teachers in person."
Anger said wearing the hats of both parent and teacher for the last year has been tough.
"It's a lot easier for them to fight me to go to school than it is their teacher," she added.
She feels like the teachers at Uintah did a great job at keeping kids engaged while learning remotely, but added that in-person learning is better for her younger children.
"They're better engaged," Anger said. "And the type of learning that a kindergartener gets I even view as more of a social learning rather than academic."
"I think the social part of it is a huge component," said Weston Clark, parent of a first grader Uintah Elementary School.
He said his daughter was excited, but nervous to return to the classroom.
"She said she was so nervous she felt like she might throw up!" Clark said.
Her return to in-person learning was tough for him as well.
"It feels a little unnerving to put my child forward in that space," Clark added. "But it is also nice to feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel and this feels like the first step towards that."
The Salt Lake City School District has implemented a few new policies to ensure teachers, school staff and students are safe with the return to in-person instruction.
For elementary students, teachers will spray desks with disinfectant at the start and end of each day, playground equipment will be cleaned at least three times a day, and each classroom will get hand sanitizer, paper towels and disinfectant spray.
"I think they were dealt a really difficult hand and they are doing as good as they possibly can," Clark said. "I know they are being super thoughtful, super careful in every step of the way."
"I think they've done a really wonderful job of planning it," Anger added. "They're still giving people the online option which I think is huge because the decision is not the same for everybody."
Second and third grade students in the district are scheduled to return to in-person learning Monday, Feb. 1, with fourth through sixth grade students coming back the following week.