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'It's just amazing to have them back' | 25 schools in Sacramento County return to in-person learning

From hand sanitizer on every classroom door, social distancing, and required masks, students must now follow a long list of safety protocols to return to campus.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Twenty-five Sacramento County elementary schools are re-opening for in-person learning after being granted waivers. Sixteen of those schools are in the Diocese of Sacramento.

"When I work and when I play, distance keeps me safe," Austin Baker's Kindergarten class sang.

Six months away from the classroom and these kindergartners already know how to play by their new rules.

Baker, now in his 25th year of teaching at St. Robert Catholic School in South Sacramento, came up with this safety song to help his kindergartners remember the basics.

"Without words, it's just amazing to have them back," Baker said. "I've taught in so many different [grades], kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd, and I don't think I've ever had to teach like this."

Those basics are what's allowing the Diocese of Sacramento to re-open.

"The connectivity that students need is going to allow them to go so much further in their academics," Samara Palko, the Principal at St. Robert Catholic School said. "So, having that connection to their campus, to their second family, to their community, really allows them to grow and prosper as young persons."

With daily temperature checks, hand sanitizer mounted on every door, and visual reminders all over the school, Palko says she's 100-percent comfortable bringing her students back.

"We're letting kids know this is important for you, important for your family, important for all of your teachers and staff to make sure everyone stays healthy and safe," she said.

In-person learning was made optional for families in the diocese, but the district says 85 to 90 percent of their families decided physically coming back to campus was their best option.

"We really wanted to make sure that we're meeting families where they're at. We understand that a student might have underlying health conditions or someone in the home might have underlying health conditions, so we wanted to make sure that everyone in the home could access that," said Lincoln Snyder, Superintendent and Executive Director of Schools for the Diocese of Sacramento.

In the event a student does test positive, Snyder says their cohort, or class they stick to all day, will be sent home to quarantine for two weeks while they temporarily switch back to distance learning.

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