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Elementary students nervous but excited about new school year

Teaching assistant Peggy Moore, right, greets a Lake Placid Elementary School student with a thermometer on the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 8. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — Students arrived to school for their first day of classes after an unusual summer.

Izabella Sears, 10, and Kyah Yarosis, 8, were among the first students to arrive at the Lake Placid Elementary School on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Sears entered fifth grade this year. Yarosis entered third grade.

The two students spoke with the News, while social distancing, outside of the school building before the rest of their classmates arrived.

Sears and Yarosis, like most other students, experienced a summer vacation unlike any they’d ever had before.

Lake Placid Elementary School students wait to enter the building on their first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 8. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

New York saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the beginning of March, though many health officials now believe that the virus had been spreading undetected for weeks before that. All nine districts in the Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES District and all 16 in the Champlain Valley Educational Services BOCES District decided to close their doors on March 16, and thousands of students were moved to remote learning. At first, administrators set a tentative reopening date of April 20. No one knew how long the coronavirus would continue to spread. Yet remote learning was continued through the rest of the school year.

Usually, Sears and Yarosis would spend their summer vacations doing things with friends. This summer was different.

“I didn’t do much because of corona,” Sears said. “So really, I just sat down in my room, reading a lot of books. I went outside to swing. I don’t have a pool where I live, so we didn’t really have water close to us.”

Yarosis was able to visit one of her friends who lives near her, but other than that, she mostly stayed at home.

“Like she said, there wasn’t a lot of stuff to do,” Yarosis said.

Lake Placid Elementary School Principal Sonja Franklin, left, directs student Lamar Scarlett where to stand to wait for screening before entering school on Tuesday, Sept. 8. District Superintendent Roger Catania, center, waits to greet other students as they arrive on their first day of school. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

For parents, the decision of whether to send their children back to school wasn’t easy.

Daniel Cash, a new member of the Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education and father of three students, said every option that was presented was “nerve-wracking.” Remote learning wasn’t easy, but having his kids return to classes in person posed some safety concerns, too.

“Any option had its ups and downs,” Cash said. Ultimately, he chose to send his kids back to school in person.

“The main thing I have to remind myself is that … I think about the staff and the teachers and the trust that has been built over the years. I just rely on that,” Cash said. “I trust that the teachers have the best interest of my children at heart. I feel comfortable sending my kids off to school.”

Asked what they would’ve chosen to do if it was their choice, Sears and Yarosis agreed with their parents’ decision to send them back to school in person.

“I would rather come back because I don’t like the online school,” Yarosis said.

“I really don’t like online school,” Sears added. “It’s too hard, just because it’s too hard to focus a lot.”

“You have to keep track of a lot of stuff,” Yarosis said.

“You have to have so many tabs open,” Sears said.

Both students said they were nervous to come back to school because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t really like the masks,” Yarosis said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how well it will go this year, to see how better it is with the masks on or off,” Sears said.

Though cautious about the pandemic, Yarosis said she’s looking forward to the year ahead: “I’m looking forward to seeing my teacher and meeting all my friends again, because I haven’t seen them in so long.”