Monday was the first day of in-person instruction since the pandemic for some middle and high school students in the Sweetwater Union High School District.
Checkpoints were set up at three entrances at Sweetwater High School in National City. Students were asked questions about their symptoms and given temperature checks, and parents signed consent forms agreeing their children would follow safety protocols.
Students are back on a hybrid schedule -- two full school days a week, two groups alternating days.
“I’m a little nervous,” student Vanessa Garcia said. “I haven’t been back since last year, no one has, so it’s a fresh new thing again.”
Teacher Leigh Hatfield was excited to be back with students.
"I’ve been getting a little stir crazy at home,” he said.
Some teachers volunteered to come back early, incentivized by a one-time monthly bonus.
“It’s just really exciting to come back on campus,” Hatfield said. "The pay does not factor into my choice that much, really.”
District spokesperson Vernon Moore said the bonuses were given to reward employees for doing heavy lifting during the pandemic. He made it clear the bonuses were not given until millions of dollars were spent on keeping the district’s 23 campuses safe.
In order to qualify for state funding the district had to invite one entire class back for in-person learning. The senior high school class was the chosen one. Ren Charifa said he was relieved to be back, saying he could not focus while doing distance learning.
“I’ve been worrying about my grades and stuff, and if I could go to a good college or not," he said.
High school senior Arath Perez was "happy" to be back.
“I’m just looking forward to being in class being with my friends, six feet apart," he said.
High school senior William Jensen said he was glad to meet his teachers in-person for the first time.
“It’s exciting because you kind of build a relationship with your teacher over the computer, it’s just now that I’m finally able to meet her it’s pretty exciting,” he said.