Thousands of Visalia middle and high schoolers return to campus

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Students at Redwood High in Visalia were welcomed back to campus with music, dance, and school spirit.

On Thursday, thousands of Visalia Unified School District middle and high school students returned to the classroom, a little more than a week after Tulare County entered the red or substantial risk tier of the state's reopening plan.

Families had the option to continue with full distance learning.

Students who chose in-person instruction have been divided into morning and afternoon tracks.

At Golden West High School, acting principal Michael Lambert greeted the morning group by handing out face masks.

He says about 70% of the school's population is back.

The other 30% are learning from home.

"You don't realize it's been a year already," Lambert said. "Kids have adapted to the distance learning, but there's really no substitute for having kids in class in front of a teacher. And so we're glad to have those kids back."

Visalia students are spaced six feet apart from one another.

Teachers have hand sanitizer and wipes.

Every classroom has a HEPA filter, and foggers will be used in between morning and afternoon classes.

"So our main three rules here are hand sanitize, wear a mask, and stay socially distanced," Lambert said.

"Even though it's been a little unconventional, it's definitely been an amazing year," Golden West senior Ariel Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is looking forward to an in-person graduation ceremony.

And she is grateful that she can finish her senior year face to face with her teachers and friends.

"We're all definitely social distanced so I like that aspect of it," Rodriguez said. "And it's nice to just see your peer's face, because usually on Zoom you don't really see anyone's camera on."

High school freshmen are setting foot on campus for the first time.

Senior Wyatt Hartman helped make that transition a little easier by giving them tours on Wednesday.

"So that was really fun to see the freshmen finally see the campus for their first time so that was really, really nice to give them that experience," Hartman said.
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