GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County school leaders say it's been a long time coming.
Some GCS middle and high schoolers are heading to school next week.
They haven't been inside the classroom for nearly a year!
Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras said the district is ready.
"We’ve been preparing for a long time so I don’t think there’s some mad rush this weekend because we’ve had several false starts," Contreras explained. "But I think that people are now preparing themselves mentally."
Dr. Contreras said there is a lot of apprehension, but also excitement.
"I have to shout out the elementary principals, teachers, and support staff who have said to the secondary folks it was really scary at first, lots of anxiety but there’s nothing like that experience of children coming back through our school doors and I know there’s lots of excitement about finally seeing the children."
WFMY News 2's Jess Winters asked the superintendent how she feels about the A/B cohort schedules that allow for in-person learning two days a week.
"I'm not exactly comfortable with the A/B schedule because students need to be in school five days a week. But I also understand the science about how older students contract the virus and transmit the virus at greater rates than young children at the elementary level."
Contreras added that a lot of back-to-school decisions are out of her hands.
"Some things are simply not up to Sharon Contreras or the Guilford County Board of Education," she said. "Because we have to follow Plan B at the secondary level to keep everyone safe and that comes from the state health department, we're going to follow those guidelines that require a certain amount of social distancing."
The cohort schedules make social distancing possible.
"Schools only have so much square footage. There's no way we could get all the students back on any given day with the social distancing requirements."
The first group of sixth and ninth graders return Monday. These are students who have never stepped through their middle or high school doors.
"I want them to know that the middle and high school experience will be a little different, it doesn't look the same with all the safety protocols but it won't always be like this," she said. "We're human so we thrive on hugging one another but we can't do that right now. The important thing is that they are back, they are together, and I want them to know it's only going to get better from here."