RANCHO CORDOVA (CBS13) — In-person learning is returning to the Folsom Cordova Unified School District one day before the county falls into a more restrictive coronavirus alert tier.

Making the move before Sacramento County gets downgraded means schools will not be required to continue with distance learning.

This means nearly 5,000 students will be headed back to class for in-person learning.

On Thursday, as classes resumed, some parents were nervous but also supportive of the district’s decision.

“It sounds like their school is taking precautions, there’s very limited kids in the classroom and they all have to wear masks,” said parent Lorie Hobart.

Some families came bearing gifts as staff greeted them on the first day back after months of homeschooling during the pandemic.

“I was ready. Grandma is not prepared for this, not prepared for this homeschooling!” said Barbara Young.

Educators say one-on-one time with teachers is imperative for elementary school children who are still developing social skills. Colten Felkins agrees.

“So a lot of folks are worried but I believe the one-on-one with the teachers is a good thing for my child. He is super hyper, so I think the one on one is a good thing for him. I think he’ll learn a lot more,” said Felkins.

Janice Myrick, a grandma dropping off grandchild Thursday said, “Online he loves his teacher and I think it will make a big difference to be with him in person.“

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The Folsom Cordova superintendent Sarah Koligian says new health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are also making a difference.

“So they’ll have to learn some new routines, but our principals and our teachers have got it all mapped out,” Koligian said.

Precautions include mandatory masks for students and staff, plastic barriers and social distancing markers throughout the school, and regular sanitization of the facility including heating and air conditioning systems.

“We’ve also gone above and beyond the count lines with our filtration systems, we have replaced all of our filters with what’s called a MERV 13 filter,” Koligian said.

Students will be placed in groups for two and a half hours of learning and moved through the building at different times to avoid contact. Student groups will be allowed out for recess, but they are not going to be allowed to use the playground equipment just yet. Making the grade when it comes to a safe move back to the classroom as coronavirus cases begin to rise again.

Koligian says they have protocols in place for if and when a student or staff member feels ill, including removing them for assessment to a building outside the school and possible quarantine after a doctor assessment.

Still, Angelica Miklos, president of the Folsom Cordova Education Association, says moving forwards when the county is going backwards is unwise.

“Right now, we’re the outliers,” Miklos said. “I saw the letter that the Elk Grove superintendent sent to his families and staff and they are prudently looking at cases and they’re waiting.”

Elk Grove and Natomas Unified had tentative plans to reopen for in-person classes if the county stayed in a lower tier, but those plans appear to be on hold after Sacramento moved into purple status.

“It just seems like not a wise move to be starting right now – right before Thanksgiving, right before Christmas,” Miklos said.

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