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Aiken County Schools Welcome Next Batch of Students for First Day

Schools across Aiken County welcomed the second cohort of students back as classes began on Wednesday, and principals say students are following COVID-19 protocols.

Roughly one third of Aiken County Public School District students attended their first day of face-to-face classes Wednesday instead of Monday.

Students not enrolled in Aiken Innovate, the school district's all-virtual program, are attending in-person classes two days a week under the current hybrid schedule and are divided into two attendance cohorts. The Blue Cohort attends in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the Red Cohort attends in-person on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Faculty and staff welcomed students as they exited their cars and buses with backpacks and masks on Wednesday morning. 

Charlsi Diaz was one of several parents waiting in the car line to drop off her two sons, Ezequiel and Santiago, for their first day of school at Clearwater Elementary School. 

While the day brings excitement for the boys to see their friends again, Diaz still felt worried as students return to school in a COVID-19 environment.

"I'm kind of nervous, but hopefully if they do what they're supposed to do, then it'll be great," Diaz said. "We have a lot of masks, so they're prepared and they're very excited." 

Both J.D. Lever Elementary School Principal Michael Truitt and Assistant Principal Kippy Kelly expressed excitement early Wednesday morning, standing in front of the school and ushering students inside.

"We're so thrilled," Kelly said.

Truitt said things went smoothly with the first cohort, and he expects the same for the roughly 150 kids returning to school Wednesday. Mask-wearing, Kelly mentioned, has not been a problem.

Lisa Fallaw, the principal at East Aiken School of the Arts, said she is thrilled to have students return.

"We absolutely love having them back," Fallaw said. "It's brought the building back to life again, and it's made it a whole lot more fun than just me and my secretary in the building."

Paige Day, principal at Paul Knox Middle School, said the first two days of school went “remarkably smooth,” and attributed that to the plan that was put in place.

“I think that just goes back to the fact that when you have a really solid plan – we had a lot of stakeholders take part in helping us build that plan – that when you put a lot of effort in on the front end, that things will go smoothly, so I’ve just been really pleased with that,” Day said.

Day said the students have been both excited and nervous about attending school, adding the students have been quiet since they’ve been back, so the staff is looking forward to the kids getting warmed up to being back.

As day-to-day operations and procedures at school change drastically due to COVID-19, Day said students are treating the pandemic and protocols "extremely respectfully."

“We have not had any issues with students wearing their masks; they’ve been very respectful of the rules that we’ve put in place and very attentive,” Day said.

Check back with Aiken Standard as this article will be updated. 

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Aiken Standard/Staff Reports