ELK GROVE (CBS13) — Teachers and staff in Elk Grove welcomed elementary school students back on Tuesday after a year away due to the pandemic.

“It’s exciting to go to school in real life,” said one young boy.

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Students and their families alike were happy to be face-to-face with teachers again.

“Drop the kid at the front and then stay on the outside,” said a security guard who was guiding cars in. “You have a fantastic amazing rest of your day.”

One by one, parents pulled up to drop students off – all in protective gear or masks and maintaining physical distancing protocols.

School leaders say just over one-third are returning for in-person instruction two days a week.

“There is a Wednesday-Friday group and then there is a Tuesday-Thursday group. Monday is distance learning,” said Xanthi Pinkerton, the public information officer for the school district.

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“What that enables us to do is to be able to keep the students with their teacher and at the same school site without having to switch them to a different teacher,” she added.

The goal is to keep students connected with their teachers and their school so there is less of a transition when they go back to full in-person learning five days a week.

“This is a wonderful day,” said mother Sharronda Johnson.

A return to full-time classroom instruction can’t happen soon enough for pandemic-weary parents.

“I think this was the worst thing that could have happened. I think they are missing out on so much. More of the social than academic,” Johnson said.

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Middle and secondary students are slated to go back to school the final week of March.