The doors to in-person learning have reopened after six months, or “way too long ago,” as middle high school principal Tyler Church said in the days leading up to school starting. At the Wadena-Deer Creek elementary school students entered through four doors with paraprofessionals at the helm, holding clipboards of class lists and a map of the school to direct students.

“Do you know where you’re going?” filled the air as students walked up to the doors, face coverings on, and with a pump of hand sanitizer headed to their classrooms. Paraprofessionals instead of parents walked students to their classrooms and teachers welcomed students with excitement.

Paraprofessional Sheila Jackson said she’s looking forward to a new semester even with the challenges. While trying to figure out how she felt about the first of day school, after ushering in student after student, special education teacher Fay Pary said she feels “like every first school day ever, a little anxious, a little excited, a little confused.”

By 8:08 a.m. the hand sanitizer station by door 15 had run out. Stations were spread out throughout the school and in teachers’ classrooms, one student even unpacked his own bottle and placed it in his desk.

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Two parents said the biggest difference was not being able to take their children to their classrooms. As a parent of a first grader and two children who began college this semester after not having a traditional graduation ceremony last year, parent Becky Wood said she’s glad and emotional that her daughter can return to in-person learning though she’s not “keen” on the face coverings.

“It’s a little bit sad because usually I get to go in there and take a picture by her locker and take a picture with her teacher and so we don’t get to do that so that part’s a little disheartening,” Wood said.

Wood said first grade teacher Angie Moats plans to help students adjust to the differences and transition well by spending the first month on getting to know one another. Megan Pride was excited for the first day of school recaps from her children.

“It’s going to be interesting to see. I told them to tell me all about their day,” Pride said.

The question is still how long students will get to remain in school depending on the Wadena County case rates of the total number of COVID-19 cases in the county over a two-week period divided by the county population over 10,000.

At the middle high school students also entered through the front and north side doors with signs on the door saying, “Masks required.”

With camping chairs and blankets, the senior class gathered for a sunrise opening to the 2020-21 school year even with the temperature of 36 degrees, according to a video posted on the W-DC Facebook page. The seniors will also have a closing sunset after graduation in the spring.

“After such an abrupt end I felt like it was good to have something scheduled before you just jump right in,” senior Emma Mehl, who organized the event, said in the video.