Red Oak ISD opened its doors to students on Thursday, Aug. 20, as kids were dropped off from cars and buses heading into the new school year, with their masks fully attached.

After many school board meetings and decisions within the ROISD district, students finally returned for the 2020-21 school year.

Eastridge Elementary Principal Michelle Owen welcomed half of her students in person, while the other half were welcomed virtually.

"We’ve been counting down the days, and so today was just perfect. All of the kids came in with big smiles, and we couldn’t always see all of them because everybody was so good about following the facial covering rule. Everyone was so happy to be here. It was a great morning," Owen said. "We’re getting back to our new normal. I am most excited about this opportunity to learn. This is my 20th year in education. Super excited to see the kids in person, but also looking forward to learning how to meet the needs of our students virtually as well."

First grade teacher at Eastridge Elementary, Tiffany Bell, shared her enthusiasm for the new school year.

"It feels so good. First off, seeing the kids, and just how excited they are to be here makes me excited," Bell said. "I teach first grade, so their little comments already are like, ’That’s my friend from last year’ and ’What’s your name? It’s nice to meet you’. Just hearing their conversations and the community is really what I was most excited for."

Bell has been an educator for five years and understands that this year will look different from past years. "I would definitely say it’s going to be a more challenging year. Things will be constantly changing, whether it be that kids are going from online face-to-face learning. Just having to change instruction, and for first grade, its stations."

Bell was chosen to be one of the in-person teachers at Eastridge, meaning she will not have virtual learners for the new school year. "I am only teaching face to face. We were fortunate enough to be able to split our team. I was honored that I was picked to be one of the face to face teachers, because like I said there’s just nothing like having kids who are ready to learn in your classroom. No matter what challenge this year is gonna bring, we’re gonna be flexible, and I think we’re gonna come out stronger in the end," Bell said.

Red Oak High School 10th grade English teacher Angie Johnson was super excited to see the friendly faces of her students.

"It’s been a really good first day back. All of the students have been really good about wearing their masks. The flow has been pretty good since we only have a little under 50 percent on campus, and the Internet was out through all of region 10, basically all of North Texas this morning, so that was crazy. But besides that, I think everyone adapted very well through it," Johnson shared.

Some of the first day procedures included the importance of sanitizing everything, such as hands and the desk area. Johnson emphasized the importance to be flexible going into the school year.

"Just making sure to pivot when we need to pivot and continue to be flexible. I’m pretty happy with how our admin has handled the situation. They’ve kept things pretty positive for the staff. Definitely we feel like we’re part of a team, and its very student centered. It’s just new. We’re doing two things at the same time," Johnson said. "The kids ... seem like they’re gonna be really respectful of all of the rules. They’re really rising to the occasion."

Red Oak Superintendent Brenda Sanford witnessed the first day and said that the morning went well as she embraced the noisy hallways she missed.

"When I walked the hallways this morning, not only seeing children in the building but also hearing the noise was fabulous. The quiet noise is not what any of us signed up for. I think I’m most excited about the fact that we’re embracing change," Sanford said. "We’re having to find a balance of building a relationship with kids regardless of if they’re in person and also educating those students equally. The growth in that and finding a way to adapt to that change is what I’m most excited about. Everything went well this morning. We had the drop-off, about 45 percent in-person. So we really cut down on a typical first day of school. Temperature checks on everyone coming in. Parents were not allowed into the building because we’re trying to not have any visitors in the buildings. That went very well."

Although there were some technical errors with the Internet throughout region 10 of North Texas, Sanford was pretty excited to see things come together in person.

"Seeing it come together. Actually watching it unfold ... was pretty phenomenal. Even with the mask on, you can tell the light in the eyes and if there’s excitement. And seeing the excitement with the teachers and the students, that was also pretty emotional to be honest," Sanford said.