Parents, students ready for 'normal' school year after pandemic learning

·3 min read

Sep. 8—As families dropped off kindergartens through eighth graders at Mankato Area schools this morning for the first day of classes, parents such as Vanessa and Jason Tompkins are "happy to get back to normal" after pandemic learning.

"The kids need that," Jason Tompkins said, adding he's confident his kids are at the learning level they should be. "We feel like it," he said outside of Bridges Community School.

This year masks are optional for pre-K-12 students, staff and visitors but are recommended on buses and public transportation, according to the district website. They are required in health offices and for those with COVID-19 symptoms waiting to go home.

Kids appeared ready to start the school year Thursday at Bridges as the school placed an actual bridge outside the front entrance for families to take photos in front of.

Elea Olson said she was excited to start the fifth grade.

"I want to learn more about math and also go to the fun field trips again," she said.

Elea's mom, Franki Olson, said she's confident in her kids being at school this year and that she's excited for her daughter to go back to school.

"That was one of the comments that I made just coming up here was, 'Oh my God, you guys. It's a year where we're not starting with masks,'" she said. "It's actually really nice, because I enjoy her going to school here, all the experiences she gets, and she loves her teachers and has a great relationship with them."

Mary and Adam Canaday, parents of Dave and Aiden, were also looking forward to a more normal school year for their kids.

"I'm excited for them to not have the stress that they've had over the last few years and excited for them to have an opportunity to just really concentrate on school instead of the pandemic," Mary said.

Scott Dilorenzo, dad of fourth grader Arianna and second grader Elijah, said he's also confident his kids are up to speed and that he has no pandemic-related concerns, adding they do some work over the summer to make sure they're ready for the new school year.

"For the most part, we did a few workbooks over the summer to keep things fresh and try to do reading every night, so I think they're right where they need to be," he said.

For some families, the first day of school also comes with first-day traditions.

"The first-day tradition is to drop them off and take pictures on the bridge instead of taking the bus, because normally they get on the bus. Tomorrow morning the whole family will go down to the bus stop and see Aiden off," Canaday said.

The Tompkinses said they try to be active if weather permits.

"We try to bike our first day, obviously if the weather is good, so we try to get outside and be active if we can," Jason Tompkins said.

And for parents like the Dilerenzos, the pictures themselves are the tradition.

"We do all the pictures and get things set up the night before. They're looking forward to everything, so just getting the jitters out," Scott Dilorenzo said. "They're excited. We're excited that they're going back to school and getting back at it. They're excited to see their friends and meet new ones and new teachers, so yeah, everyone's looking forward to it."