EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

New fourth-grader Jazmyn Stepniak, 9, looks into Garfield Elementary School with her brother Michael Stepniak, 4, as they wait with her parents on the first day of school Tuesday in Marinette. The younger Stepniak was on his way to Menekaunee Sunrise Early Learning Center.

MARINETTE — Earlier this week, Marinette School District began classes for all students, whether in-person or at home.

All Marinette schools opened to students earlier this week to begin the 2020-21 school year. Marinette’s Superintendent Corry Lambie has high hopes for this school year. A mixed approach of mask-wearing, social distancing and other policies has made Lambie confident that this school year will be successful despite COVID-19 concerns.

Lambie said of the district’s approach: “Students and staff have had to wear masks and act much differently than before. They have to enter and exit the school through specific doors and be kept within their own small cohorts. It’s definitely different, but both students and staff have been adapting to the situation very well.”

“Occasionally we’ve had to remind the students that social distancing is required. They really are social beings, so teachers have had to hand out some friendly reminders.” Lambie said.

Parent’s worries about beginning in-person classes were addressed in several different plans released by the district earlier this year. These plans provided options for both learning entirely online and a blended learning option that provides both in-person and online learning. With both options available to families, most families have comfortably settled into their new school routines.

“We have welcomed parent’s questions, they really help to keep everyone informed. Most parents aren’t keeping kids at home, so I think the district’s plans have addressed most parents’ fears and questions.” Lambie said.

Marinette district teachers are also back in their classrooms with students. According to Lambie, the new policies put in place by the district to protect both students and teachers are working well. “With so many new practices there has been some anxiety from the teachers, but mostly they have been ready to get back to teaching. They were put on this earth to teach kids, and they are very happy to be back.” Lambie said.

When asked about possible COVID-19 cases and the possible increase in cases that could result from reopening schools Lambie said, “We have over 2,000 students. When they are here we are using social distancing practices to mitigate and slow any possible spread of COVID.”

With two cases of COVID-19 in Peshtigo schools already confirmed many would worry, but Lambie is confident that the close relationships between school district staff will help each other. Lambie said of the cases at Peshtigo’s schools: “We’re in a small town, so we are collaborating with Peshtigo to learn from them and how they have managed their cases, and I think they have handled the positive cases very well. We will all have to deal with positive cases at some point, but we can and will collaborate with each other to manage as we go.”