FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After more than a year of distance learning, 21,000 students returned to campuses across the Fresno Unified School District Tuesday.
Teachers and support staff were ready and waiting to help those students adjust back to campus life.
This is the first set of full grade levels to go back to class, with thousands more set to follow in their footsteps next week.
The energy was high and if it weren't for the masks and signs that remind students to keep distance from one another, it'd be hard to tell that students haven't been on campus.
There was lots of chatter and selfies and really just students getting the chance to interact with their friends and teachers, in person, for the first time in a year.
"Our kids have not been present with others for a long time, so actually having the opportunity to spend time socially with adults and other kids is just really, really important," said Bob Nelson, Superintendent of Fresno Unified School District
It was all hands on deck Tuesday as FUSD staff welcomed students back to campus.
Parents and buses dropped off 7th graders at Ahwahnee Middle School for the first time in more than a year.
"We feel reenergized by having them here," said Principal Jennifer Carr.
Zackary Mendoza Mathers, a 7th grade student in the leadership class was enjoying his first day.
"I already like it here, it already made a good impression on me," said Mendoza Mathers.
It wasn't just the first day for in-person learning, for these 7th graders, it was their first day on a new campus.
Teachers and administrators were out during class changes to help students. Signs labeled different buildings and there were updates throughout the day over the loud speaker.
In classrooms, desks were physically distanced while teachers discussed assignments with students in-person and at home.
Students who are returning to campus are split into two groups: A and B.
Group A is on campus Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Group B will be on campus Thursdays and Fridays.
All students will learn virtually on Mondays.
"It's definitely nice to be able to come back," said Mendoza Mathers. "I feel like I'm able to concentrate more and focus on our work more often."
Those who didn't want to return are allowed to continue distance learning through the end of the year.
Administrators said having kids back in class brings a sense of normalcy.
"Having them back, it's everything. And it's also a sign for all of us that, hey, like things are starting to get better and get back to normal and so it's very hopeful and it's uplifting," said Principal Carr.
An additional 20,000 students will return next week across Fresno Unified School District. District officials said they're already looking to the future. They have been discussing having summer school all summer long and the possibility of extending the school day next year to make sure students have all of the help they need.