CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) -- For the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, thousands of Sweetwater Union High School District students are returning to school full-time for in-person learning on Wednesday.
Students and staff will be required to wear a mask indoors at all times, regardless of vaccine status. Masks are not required outdoors but are encouraged.
The district is one of the first in San Diego County to return to full-time and in-person for the 2021-2022 school year.
District officials say they've taken a number of steps to ensure student and staff safety once they're back on campus. Air purifiers were installed throughout the campus, signs are posted reminding of hand-washing and mask use, and the schools will provide all necessary PPE.
Sweetwater High School Principal Dr. Maribel Gavin told ABC 10News on Tuesday that all classrooms will have hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to clean areas as needed.
"For me, I'm not comfortable yet — but maybe it's not just me. Maybe it's most of the parents but we don't have a choice … it's scary out here because we still have COVID around us ... so just to be safe," said parent Rose Magtoto on Wednesday morning.
Darian Terrones, who is a student at Sweetwater Union High School said, “It's crazy I left here as a sophomore and I come back as a senior.”
And for others, it’s about getting the opportunity to get a sense of normalcy back. Kherivhon Hernandez says he looks forward to “having a high school experience for the first time and just to meet new people.”
Student Desiree Shavec adds, “I'm not worried because I know we're more secured this way but I'm glad they're still making us wear the masks.”
Dr. Gavin says she's confident it's safe for students to return full-time and explained health and education are the school's number one priorities. After school tutoring, Saturday school and credit recovery are available for any student that might have fallen behind during the pandemic.
Dr. Moises Aguirre, the district's superintendent, says a majority of students are returning to school, only about 300 opted for an online learning model offered district-wide.
If any students or staff present COVID-19 symptoms they will be assessed by campus nurses, sent home, and able to return once they have a negative test and are symptom-free.