ASHEBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Randolph County is welcoming students back to the classroom with optional masks.
“This time, the stakes are higher because now we have a chance to have everybody five days a week at the same time,” said Dr. Stephen Gainey, superintendent of the Randolph County School System.
Kids are back, and district leaders hope they can keep them there.
“We’re going to make sure people know what’s going on,” Gainey said. “We did that all last year, and if we did it one year, we’re going to do it again.”
Monday morning, students and teachers walked into Southmont Elementary School with new book bags and lunchboxes.
“I’m excited about playing on the playground,” said Dax, a kindergartener at Southmont.
Some students worried about recess and lunch, while parents had mixed feelings about masking.
“We are taking advantage of the option,” said Sheena Creech, a parent. “It’s something we believe, and we’re glad we have the choice to wear them.”
“The kids can’t be vaccinated, and it’s up to the adults to protect them, and it’s hard to send him to school knowing [masks] aren’t mandated,” said Felicia Staley, a parent.
Masks or no masks, the school day started like a pre-pandemic day with hard work, storytime and a little bit of fun.
“I know there was some anxiety, and there still is with what’s happened in the last month or so,” Gainey said.
Teachers are keeping an eye on children for symptoms of COVID and who their students might come in to contact with.
“We have a contact tracing team in our school system, and I’m part of it,” Gainey said. “We work very hard on that every day. At the end of the day, this is probably the biggest thing we do to keep school open.”
Gainey believes no matter what happens this year, his district is ready for the challenge.
“What they did last year was unbelievable,” Gainey said. “I do believe they’re ready for another year of the unbelievable if that’s what it takes because that’s what we to do for kids.”
Gainey and the school board will monitor cases across the district and let the health metrics guide any future decisions for teachers and students.