LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Monday, August 17 was a big day for several private schools across Arkansas as students returned to campus.
With almost 500 kids in class and 57 virtually, Christ the King in Little Rock was back in action as soon as the bell rang.
Of course, this year, that includes plexiglass, masks, and social distancing.
Principal Kathy House said seeing kids back on campus was just what the staff has been waiting for.
"We are so excited. We've been missing the kids since we closed down in March," she said.
But this year, House said it comes with some anticipation.
"This is my 26th year to be principal at Christ the King and I will say it's probably the hardest year that I've had," she said.
After months of preparations and sleepless nights, House said they were ready to give their students some sense of normalcy.
"I've been in every classroom this morning and every classroom I was in, there were virtual kids up on the screen and we could wave to them and say 'hi,'" she said.
According to House, this summer they spaced out every classroom to make sure desks were six-feet apart, which meant some layout changes had to take place.
"I've got 8th graders having class in the cafeteria, I've got another group of 8th graders in our safe room," she said.
Speaking of the cafeteria, lunch is brought to kids in their rooms. Recess is spaced out into zones, so they are only playing with the kids in their class.
Electives like Spanish, Art, and Music are brought to the kids by teachers with traveling carts, and Pre-K and Kindergarten tables are separated by plexiglass.
"We've done everything we know to do to try to keep it safe and, at the end of the day, that's all we can do," House said.
According to Pastor Erik Pohlmeier, students will also attend mass in-person on certain days, while others will watch online.
"We couldn't accomplish our mission as a Catholic school without that, so fortunately, we are able to adapt to that," he said.
Despite the unpredictability of it all, House said the administration believes if everyone works together they can all get through it.
"We're hoping for the best, praying for the best," she said.
Principal House said they are also looking at putting tents outside, so teachers can relocate their classrooms during the day to give students some fresh air.
Christ the King also has markers spaced out through their hallways reminding students to socially distance and they are taking temperatures every morning before school starts.