Thousands of Prince William County students return to the classroom

In northern Virginia, first-grade students are back in the classroom today in Prince William County. The return to in-person instruction is happening amid rising coronavirus case numbers.

Even so, medical leaders say schools are not super spreader locations.

READ MORE: Is it safe for teachers, students to return to classroom as COVID-19 cases rise?

For the first time in a long time, children could be seen outside playing on a school playground in Woodbridge.

While it looked different than pre-coronavirus pandemic times. The children were wearing masks and there were fewer of them playing outside.

The same scene played out inside the school: masks, social distancing, plus dividers, and drastically reduced capacity.

READ MORE: U.S. students falling behind in math during pandemic, study shows

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, this is the new normal inside the classroom as schools nationwide return to in-person instruction.

Prince William County Public Schools is no exception.

“These children are capable of always using a mask and keeping their distance,” said Eloisa Lara, a Woodbridge resident.

“I think here they do everything they can possibly do, they clean well, they make sure everything is secure and they make sure the kids follow suit with wearing the masks and all that stuff and all that stuff,” said Ron Tallent, a Woodbridge resident.

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Prince William County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Steve Walts admits even he is anxious.

“The staff as you might expect are nervous and I would say everyone is nervous including myself,” said Dr. Steve Walts.

Even so, Walts shares and shows the staff at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Woodbridge. and at campuses county-wide, are prepared.

“They can ask for any PPE needs that they have. I have visited 15 schools since school has opened since the start of the in person and each... affirmative responses,” said Walts.

The nearly three thousand first-graders returning to school today will join pre-k and kindergarten students who have already returned to the classroom.

So far there have been no COVID outbreaks.  First and second graders return on January 12.  Even so, many families are opting to continue distance learning.

Walts tells FOX 5 that local metrics or a mandate from Governor Ralph Northam would cause the district to reverse course.

Despite the months-long process for students to return to the classroom, sports, specifically basketball and cheerleading resume Monday, more sports the following week. Walts says that’s per state guidelines.

When asked about his message to parents who question why athletes can return to sports but there have been delays returning students to school, Walts says there would be controversy with any plan moving forward.