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It’s back to class for in-person learning at Sweetwater Union High School District campuses

All students must wear masks inside classrooms. Teachers also have to wear masks but said it’s a small price to pay for no more teaching through a computer screen.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Summer vacation is officially over for thousands of students in the Sweetwater Union High School District. They headed back to class Wednesday for in-person learning. But there was a pandemic twist – all students must wear masks inside classrooms.

Teachers also have to wear masks, but they said it’s a small price to pay for no more teaching through a computer screen.

“It's awesome,” said Otay Ranch High School Teacher Dan Kray. “I tell you. Seeing the kids and being back on campus and being able to be in the classroom - it makes a difference.”

The state’s current mask mandate requires all students over the age of 2 to wear a mask inside a classroom, even if the student is vaccinated. Teachers must wear masks in their classrooms when students are present. But masks are just one of several steps Otay Ranch High is taking to keep everyone safe. 

“The students are sanitizing before they come into the classroom,” said Principal Mary Rose Peralta. “They're wiping their desks before they leave the classroom. They're wiping their desks when they arrive in the classroom. They're wearing masks and their teachers are wearing masks.”

Alexandra Sanders has been teaching at Otay Ranch High for over a decade. She is also a site representative for the teacher's union. She admits some colleagues had concerns about coming back into crowded classrooms, but she personally believes the district has made things as safe as it can. She also knows in personal learning is much more impactful for most students. 

“I tell people, I don't teach history. I don't teach geography. I don't teach these things. I teach children. I teach students and not being able to interact with my students was the hardest part for me of not being physically on campus,” Sanders said.

With COVID cases rising, there is definitely a concern that schools could be shut down again, but students and staff at Otay Ranch are hoping for the best. 

“There are some things that are out of the control of an individual teacher,” said teacher Julian Valdez. “Some things out of control of the district, but as long as students know that we're doing everything in our power to be there for them, I think that is going to be a successful year.”

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