ROSEVILLE, Calif. — It's been nine weeks since West Park High School, a brand new, state-of-the-art school in Roseville, was forced to open for its first day of classes back in August, virtually, because of the pandemic.
But because Placer County is in the red coronavirus tier now, students were welcomed to campus for their first day of in-person learning ever on Monday, October 12.
It's been nine weeks of Zoom calls, empty classrooms, and quiet hallways.
"It's been a little lonely without them here," said Becky Guzman, the principal at West Park High School.
"We're all really excited to be here and I'm really excited to be the first graduating class so it's really cool," said Mihika Kini, a sophomore at the school.
Kini is one of about two-thirds of students that decided to come back for a hybrid model of in-person learning, which means she's only there for about two half-days a week. The rest of the time she's learning from home.
"It's a morale booster. It's progress in the right direction for the kids and for the staff that we're getting back to some semblance of normalcy," said Jason Tenner, a teacher at the school.
And while this is unlike anything Tenner has experienced in his 21 years of teaching, he said coming together in-person is even more important for a brand new school like this one.
"Being together, that unity piece is important when you start building a community in a new school," he said. "So to have the kids back on campus, you just can't put words on how important and how meaningful it is for us."
Guzman said, although they've had to tape off a few common areas, her school was designed with space in mind.
"We're very lucky to have a lot of space, wide hallways, we could easily set up paths of travel to keep them safe," Guzman said.
So to hear footsteps and laughter finally fill these halls, she said, this day has been a long time coming.
"You can't really see their smiles but you can see their eyes smile behind their masks. They're doing a great job [being] physically distant and wearing their masks, so we can keep kids in school hopefully for good now," she said.
The school has a total of 575 students, made up of freshmen and sophomores. The first class to graduate will be in 2023.
Continue the conversation with Lena on Facebook.
Read more from ABC10
WATCH ALSO: Governor Press Conference | October 12, 2020