CONWAY — The first day of the school year Tuesday at Conway School in Skagit County was filled with sights familiar and new.

On the familiar side: teachers and administrators greeting students; young students asking which room to head toward; and parents dropping kids off early in the morning.

On the new side: the teachers and administrators wore masks and face shields; every student wore a mask; and the parents doing drop-off had their temperatures checked as they waited in their cars.

This fall, a limited number of Conway students will be involved in in-person learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday saw the school’s first-graders in the building, along with students in the special education and migrant education programs. There were about 40 students total.

Mount Vernon Christian School also started the school year Tuesday, with students at all grade levels beginning the year at school in-person.

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Of the county’s public schools, most of which are beginning the school year online, Conway was the first to start. Because of the work required to prepare for online instruction, some districts pushed back the start of their school years.

The Mount Vernon and Burlington-Edison school districts will begin Wednesday, the Concrete and Sedro-Woolley school districts will start Sept. 8, and the La Conner and Anacortes school districts will begin Sept. 14.

Administrators at Conway said the first day saw patience and consideration among everyone getting used to new procedures to keep people safe.

Superintendent Jeff Cravy said a letter went out to parents informing them of the school’s new procedures.

“They all did exactly what we asked them to do,” he said. “Because we planned well and practiced, I think it went well.”

He said there would be a “debrief” at the end of the day to determine what could be improved upon.

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As the day began, the students entered a school with clear changes visible, from taped-off distances on the floor to encourage distancing, to bottles of hand sanitizers in the classrooms.

“It’s a little different,” said Principal Tim Dickinson, who wore a face shield.

Teachers and other staff did their best to make the unusual aspects of the situation more normal … and even fun.

“I want a mask like that — it’s awesome!” one administrator said as she greeted a young student who had just arrived.

Mount Vernon Christian School Superintendent Jeff Droog said there were about 350 students in the building Tuesday.

Students, teachers and staff encountered new rules regulating everything from how many people are permitted in hallways to what kind of face coverings are required for teachers.

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“From the moment kids arrives to when they depart, everything’s different,” Droog said.

Despite the requirements — and planning needed to meet them — he said he was happy for students to be on campus for the first time in 172 days.

“It was awesome to be back. You could see it in the kids’ eyes,” he said.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista contributed to this story

— Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Sports_SVH, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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