ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) — The Alcoa City Schools District was among the first districts in the country to welcome students back Wednesday. For students with last names beginning with letters from A to C, it was the first day of school.

The staggered schedule aims to keep class sizes small, but requires students to learn from home, virtually, four days a week. While it may not be ideal for teachers, parents, or students, for many it’s better than the alternative.

Kellie Goza’s son, Cameron, and daughter, Ruby, are both excited to go back to school, even for one day a week. While acknowledges both children enjoy learning, online learning has come with its challenges. Her primary obstacle is keeping the two engaged. Without having their friends and teachers around, that hasn’t been easy.

“When we started doing it, I liked it,” Cameron said. “Then, like probably a week in, I started not liking it and not wanting to do it because I got bored.”

Goza hopes returning to school will help them stay focused when they’re home, and more importantly, on track academically. “They thrive with the structure of school,” she added.

While Ruby is anxious to see old friends and meet new ones, she’s perhaps more anxious for the day things return to normal. “…no more virtual, no more social distancing, no more masks,” she said.

If you look around Alcoa Elementary you’ll notice a few things right away: Hand sanitizer is abundant, all faculty, staff, as well as many students are wearing face coverings, and no more than 10 students are in a classroom.

Madison Costner, a first grade teacher at Alcoa Elementary, said the small class sizes have been good for students as they transition back to school. While she’s excited to welcome students back, she said there is still a mix of emotions.

“I think everybody, you know, is concerned for the safety of all of our kids and all of our staff members, but I do think our system has done a great job of taking into account keeping every body safe and doing what we need to, the best that we can,” Costner said.

We were outside other Alcoa City Schools Wednesday morning, as students returned to school for the first time in months, with precautions such as temperature checks before entering.