From kindergarten through high school, students of all ages were happy to be back to in-person learning at their respective schools on Thursday for Porterville Unified School District’s first day of the 2021-2022 school year.

It was a fantastic day,” said PUSD Superintendent Nate Nelson. “I personally made it out to almost every single school today.”

And what he saw through everyone’s masked faces, was excitement, he said.

The kids were glad to be back, parents were happy. It was a real team effort,” Nelson said. “It was a nice day to be in Porterville.”

And with the district running close to 14,500 students — there were plenty of happy faces at all the schools.

At Westfield Elementary, Kerry Newlin held the hand of second grader Kaye Newlin who talked excitedly as she walked towards the school gates. Sixth grader Kamlynn walked on her mother’s other side, listening to the younger child talking excitedly about the new backpacks they carried.

They’re glad to be back to school in person for sure,” Kerry Newlin said.

As they approached the gates leading to the hallways and school buildings, the Newlins and many others waited patiently for the line to move forward, as each student was offering a high-five greeting to the principal Heather Bledsaw.

Bledsaw welcomed each and every student walking in, offering some of them a disposable mask if they weren't wearing one.

Once inside the gates, everyone hovered around large free-standing bulletin boards covered with lists informing the children what classroom and teacher they would each have this year. Those who couldn't find their name on the board were asked to head to the office.

She was nervous. It has been a long time since she’s been at school, because of the pandemic,” said Tanya Perez, a college student dropping off her little sister, Marisol, to her first-grade classroom with teacher Cynthia Rivera.

Down the hallway, Nancy Sanchez wiped away at tears as she hugged her son, Xavier Cruz, outside his kindergarten class.

She watched as his teacher Cassandra Klarcyk offered Xavier some hand sanitizer and instructed him on how to rub his hands together for an effective cleaning.

Right now, I’m a little emotional,” Sanchez said. “He’s my baby.”

Sanchez said Xavier did distance online learning for pre kindergarten.

He’s excited and a little nervous. He likes it more onsite than distance,” Sanchez said.

At Sequoia Middle School, Principal John Buckley said he was pleased with the outcome of the day.

The first day of school went very smoothly at Sequoia Middle School with just under 550 students in attendance,” Buckley said. “It was very exciting to see kids back on campus again, talking to friends and engaging in their learning.”

The staff was well prepared and enthusiastic about having students at their desks again, Buckley said.

We are all looking forward to a wonderful year,” Buckley said.

Principal Jose Valdez offered similar sentiments from Porterville High School.

We had a wonderful day. The students were very happy to be back in a class setting and grateful it is back to in-person. There were a lot of smiles today,” Valdez said. “The staff is happy to have them back.”

There were many engagement-type of lessons, a lot of team building, and the students knew the importance about maintaining safety protocol, Valdez said.

Today we had more than 2,100 students attending Porterville High School,” Valdez said. “All the kids were very compliant, following social distancing and wearing masks in classrooms. I think the kids are happy to be back and they don’t want to jeopardize anything.”

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