BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Monday marked the first day of school, not only here in Baltimore City, but in Baltimore, Howard and several other counties in Maryland.

Of course, COVID precautions remain top of mind.

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The state’s school board last week voted to require masks in all public schools. However, the Maryland state legislature will meet Sept. 14th to decide if they will require masks in all public schools in Maryland.

According to the City Schools’ CEO Sonja Santelises, nearly all the district’s principals and 85 percent of teachers are vaccinated.

Although today marks the return to the classroom here in the city, more than 20 schools were dismissed early Monday afternoon due to a lack of air conditioning. And school districts across Maryland report a bus driver shortage, affecting several routes.

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Santelises cited masking guidelines and improved air filtration as other reasons she believes they’re ready for the return to the classroom.

“Our main goal is that young people have as little disruption to their instructional and their learning time as possible, but we’re already putting things in place because we know that COVID is still with us. We’re going to have to manage outbreaks, she said.

“She was so excited. She wanted to hug them, but social distancing,” said Everlena Gaylord of her granddaughter. “She waited a whole year to come back to school for her friends.”

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Calvert and Cecil county students return this week. Everyone else in Maryland gets back to class after Labor Day weekend.

Paul Gessler