POINT PLEASANT — Students and teachers greeted each other with smiling faces for the first day of school on Thursday in Mason County — something that had not been possible amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and mandatory mask guidelines.
As previously reported, the Mason County Board of Education voted to hold off on mandatory masks during the Aug. 10 board meeting.
Teachers and staff showed nothing but excitement while kids were dropped off at Roosevelt Elementary.
“We are excited to have the students in-person. There is no substitute for being [in] person,” said Timothy Click, principal at Roosevelt. “We are doing what we love, teaching. This is a new year and a new chapter. We appreciate all the support, faith in us and prayers that have been sent.”
The drop-off line stayed busy with many students coming back to in-person classes with the assistance of parents.
“I’m very happy that the kids were able to go back to school and it to be in-person. My hopes for the school year is for it to be more like it was before, more normal,” said Jessica Lyons, who has a third grader in the school.
Also dropping off her two children was Heather Courts.
“We are looking forward to the new school year,” said Courts. “As parents, we entrust the most important pieces of our lives to the teachers and staff. With so many uncertainties over the last 18 months, it is an uneasy feeling to send your children into the care and teachings of someone else. We are so appreciative to all of the devoted time, knowledge and care they continuously give.”
While Courts is nervous of how things play out this year, she is hopeful of the county’s leadership.
“We are in dire need of strong leadership and caring individuals of our kids during these times,” Courts said. “We pray for the leadership’s guidance in decision making throughout the school year.”
Superintendent Keith Burdette, Mason County Board of Education Vice-president Rhonda Tennant and Curriculum and Instruction Director Dr. Kenny Bond, visited all 12 Mason County schools on Tuesday.
“I spoke to the faculty at each school and was impressed with the energy they are bringing to this school year,” Burdette said.
Burdette added, he spoke with staff at each school about the upcoming year.
“When I spoke to the staff at each school on Tuesday, I warned them we may experience a bumpy start to the school year with the turbulence caused by COVID,” Burdette said. “However, just as nervous passengers on a plane often look to the airline attendants for assurance and confidence, I believe students will look to the staff for that same type of comfort. Students are ready to learn, and our employees are eager to meet their needs in a safe environment.”
As students returned to school, Burdette was on the grounds to greet them, starting with Ashton Elementary and moving onto Hannan Jr./Sr. High School and Beale Elementary School. He said many students were greeted with red carpets and balloons.
“I had a chance to chat with a few students and staff members and witnessed the magic of schools going into action,” Burdette said. “County office staff were in all schools Thursday morning to ensure everything was off to a good start.”
While the future of the school year is still unknown, Burdette is hopeful.
“Students and school staff members seemed genuinely glad to see each other,” Burdette said.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.