First day of school is nothing new to Carver Elementary Principal June Johnson. Sept. 8 marked year No. 29 in District 112, the last 23 years as a building leader.

Whether it was at Clover Ridge, East Union or Bluff Creek, excitement comes by entering the doors of school, being among friends, seeing the classroom and beginning a nine-month journey with a teacher.

For Johnson, the year 2020 will certainly be remembered not by her face shield as she greeted students into the building. It will be remembered as the year everyone came together, staff, families, to get students back in the classroom.

Things will look different. There certainly will be a learning curve. But for Johnson, seeing past students now dropping off their own children, knowing there are smiling faces under the masks, is all worth it.

Even if Johnson, certainly a hugger, has to do it from a distance.

“It was tough. The kids want to rush up to you and give you a hug. And you just want to so badly,” Johnson said.

Eight elementary schools across Eastern Carver County opened its doors Tuesday to students, some dressed in hats and gloves with temperatures in the 40s.

There were some tears, mostly from parents, but occasionally from a brother or sister, as students embark on their first in-school learning since COVID-19 shut down schools in March.

Many children needed a helping hand finding the right door or a direction or two to their classroom. Inside, though, a friendly face greeted them. Families had an opportunity to connect with teachers last week in a 30-minute meet-and-greet.

“All the cleaning, all of the pivoting and shifting, trying to make things come together, to see it all happen, is very exciting. Seeing parents dropping their kids off, kids running off to class. To go into the rooms, seeing the teachers all organized, it’s wonderful,” said District 112 Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams.

Sayles-Adams greeted students at Carver, Jonathan and Victoria elementary schools. Just two months into the job, it was “exhilarating” to see everything come together on day one.

Raising four children, all adults now, Sayles-Adams missed out on so many first days as a teacher and principal. On Tuesday, she watched as school personnel greeted students, many by their first names. A reunion, of sorts. A true sign of the community inside District 112.

“The night before, getting them ready, talking to them, preparing them to meet their class, the first day is always exciting,” said Sayles-Adams, a former principal in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Georgia. “You could tell parents were prepared. Every kid had a mask on. Everyone was ready.”


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