Fresno Unified focused on COVID safety, emotional support as kids return to in-person routine

There will be added measures for academic, physical and mental well-being for students and staff.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno Unified School district welcomed back 70,000 students for full-time, in-person instruction on Thursday.

Last-minute hugs, high fives and farewells were exchanged by Fresno Unified families Thursday morning. For parents Karen and James Stevens, it was bittersweet dropping off their son for the first time.

"It's his first time going to school ever, so it's nerve-wracking," said Karen Stevens. "I'm going to be nervous until I pick him up this evening."

They say it's a welcome change after a year of distance learning.

"It's up to us to try and work with them to get them somewhat familiar with how it's going to work in the classroom and that's a struggle when you're at home," added Stevens. "Definitely made me nervous."

RELATED: Back to School During a Pandemic: A Central California Conversation

Fresno Unified is offering enhanced student support for mental health and wellness -- adding full-time counseling services and staff for after-school programs.

At Ericson Elementary, teachers and staff were just as eager to meet their students in person.

"I want them to feel excited about school and ready to come back tomorrow," said teacher David Hunter.

They've incorporated sanitizing, masking and new cleaning procedures into the daily routines. Students need to keep their masks on inside the classroom, but once they're outside their free to take their masks off.

"We're going to be washing hands a lot more, so we'll be incorporating that into our schedule a lot more," said Hunter.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom announces all CA teachers must be vaccinated or tested weekly

Right now, staff said they're focused on making the school setting seem as normal as possible.

"This week, these two days are about building climate and culture and building relationships with kids," said Ericson Elementary Principal Tina Rodriguez.

For now, parents we spoke to say they're excited about the year ahead.

"This is going to be one of his first tests, so to speak," added Stevens. "Waiting to hear how it goes when I pick him up this evening."

The Fresno Police Department reminded drivers that more school buses would be out on the road. Officers said commuters need to remember to slow down in school zones and to abide by bus stop rules.

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The Fresno Police Department reminded drivers that more school buses would be out on the road Thursday morning.

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