LOS ANGELES — Pencils, crayons, glue, notebooks: 9-year-old Wilson Baltazar proudly displayed his back to school supplies.

On Monday, Wilson and all other LAUSD students returned to the classroom.

“I’m excited to see new friends and have a lot of fun in there,” Wilson said smiling. 

What You Need To Know

  • All LAUSD students returned to campus this week

  • All students and staff are tested for COVID-19 every week

  • Students, teachers and families can monitor infection rates through the Daily Pass website

  • All LAUSD employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15

He goes to Hooper Ave. Elementary school in Central Alameda, but like most students, he spent the past year learning at home. He has some speech delays and his mom, Melissa Antonio, was grateful he would be returning to the classroom.

“He’s in the IEP program, [Individual Education Program], and that’s actually helping kids that are suffering in classes; there’s extra help and teachers that are behind him,” Antonio said.

She spent the past year coordinating school at home for Wilson and his 5-year-old brother Emilio, while also taking care of 4-year-old Alissah.

Antonio enjoyed learning along with her children, but found certain parts of home schooling challenging.

“It was overwhelming for sure, because the books, computers or internet sometimes didn’t work, so we would miss pages or whatever homework was assigned that day.”

In addition, there were two students learning simultaneously from the dining room table.

“One of them would be on one side of the table, the other would be on the opposite side,” Antonio said.

Books, crayons and papers were laid out on the table while the ABC's and 123's were taped up on the wall.

This week, Wilson began fourth grade, Emilio started first grade and Alissah went into Pre-K. It is a stark change from last year and has left Antonio with more free time than ever before.

Like her children, she has also decided to return to school to become a pharmacy technician.

“I’m grateful all my kids are going back to school. It gives me the privilege to go back to school myself and start a career I wanted to start a long time ago,” Antonio said.

However, along with relief and new opportunities for the family come concerns about COVID-19 and the rise in delta variant cases.

“I’m just hoping for the best. I’m hoping nothing harms the kids — all the kids in general. I’m sure many parents are worried, but one of the most important things we have to do is send our kids back and have our faith in God,” Antonio added. 

On campus at Hooper Ave., teacher Arlene Liberto was preparing to welcome her fourth and fifth grade classes on their first day. She had a practice run teaching with COVID-19 restrictions over the summer and said the students adapted well, particularly to masking rules. 

“It just became part of their wardrobe. It became part of life. It wasn’t exclusive to school. They have to wear it if they go to the market, if they go to the movies. It’s just part of life now,” she said.

Liberto also saw students grow emotionally throughout the summer. “We talked about a lot of social and emotional topics. We discussed things. They were sharing that they were so happy to be here. They love school and they love learning, but they also love coming out of their house,” she said.

Melissa Antonio anticipated that seeing her own children heading off to school would be challenging at first.

“I think when we get there we will be kind of sad, but we know it’s for the best,” she said.

When asked about his excitement Wilson beamed, “I’m so excited, really.”