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These Photos Show What The First Day Of School Looks Like Across The Country

Despite the Delta variant, children across the country are returning to in-person learning.

Posted on September 7, 2021, at 10:01 a.m. ET

Over the past month, schools across the nation have welcomed students back for what many were hoping would be a "normal" school year. Since March 2020, districts have operated in a variety of nontraditional models including completely virtual classes and hybrid scheduling. But as intense school boards meetings make headlines, mask mandates — and bans on mask mandates — leave communities divided and the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads nationally, the start to the 2021-2022 school year is still anything but normal. These photos show a range of emotions and give us a glimpse of how schools, teachers, and students across the country handled their first days back.

John Partipilo / AP

Marshall Groves, left, and his twin brother, Charlie Groves, go to Lockland Design Center. Their mother, Beth Groves, is fully behind children that have not been vaccinated wearing masks at school in Nashville.

Thomas Wells / AP

Code Enforcement Officer Jeremandy Jackson gives a student a high five as parents, city officials, teachers, and others welcome students back for the first day of school at Shannon Elementary School in Mississippi on Aug. 5.

Yasmina Chavez / AP

Elena Choi, 5, puts on her mask as she starts kindergarten during the first day of school at Hannah Marie Brown Elementary School in Henderson, Nevada, on Aug. 9.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

A healthcare worker directs parents and students arriving at the main entrance of the Adams campus of Oyster-Adams bilingual school in Washington, DC, on Aug. 30.

Chandan Khanna / AFP via Getty Images

Students wear face masks as they attend their first day in school at the St. Lawrence Catholic School north of Miami on Aug. 18.

Robin Rudd / AP

Orchard Knob Middle School Assistant Principal Michael Calloway squirts sanitizer onto students' hands as they arrive for the first day of school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Aug. 12.

Medianews Group / MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Jill Baker asks first graders at Roosevelt Elementary School if any of them have lost teeth yet on the first day of school on Aug. 31.

Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images

Face masks sit on a table outside of Schoolcraft Elementary for students and parents to wear when entering the building on the first day of school on Aug. 30 in Schoolcraft, Michigan.

Brandon Bell / Getty Images

An instructor leads a classroom discussion at the Xavier Academy on Aug. 23 in Houston.

Eric Gay / AP

Students and parents gather outside the Governor's Mansion to urge Gov. Greg Abbott to drop his opposition to public school mask mandates, Aug. 16, in Austin, Texas.

LM Otero / AP

Wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, elementary school students line up to enter school for the first day of classes in Richardson, Texas, on Aug. 17.

Brittainy Newman / AP

Voylette Bell, 7, writes and draws positive affirmations on poster board at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, on Aug. 17 in New York.

Sarah Reingewirtz / AP

Children socially distance as they eat breakfast at Repetto Elementary School in Monterey Park, California, on Aug. 17.

Dave Zajac / AP

First-year students, left to right, Ryan Smith, 14, Finian Hickey, 14, Gordon Johns, 14, and Tyler Selitte, 14, study in the media center on the first day of school at Cheshire High School on Aug. 31.

Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP

A sign outside Olympia High School in Orlando, Florida, displays a mask requirement for students without a note to help curb the spread of COVID-19 on Aug. 13.

David Mcfadden / AP

Students arrive for their first day of school in Baltimore on Aug. 30.

Mike Simons / AP

April Bullard kisses her grandson Michael Smith on his first day of Pre-K at Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy on Aug. 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

David Zalubowski / AP

Dezirae Espinoza wears a face mask while cradling a tube of cleaning wipes as she waits to enter the building for the first day of in-class learning since the start of the pandemic at Garden Place Elementary School, Aug. 23, in north Denver.

Lynne Sladky / AP

Students Sofia Senra, left, and Emma Orell, right, bump elbows as they work on a lesson together at iPrep Academy on the first day of school, Aug. 23, in Miami.

Strf / STRF/STAR MAX/IPx

Students at the Simon Baruch School in Manhattan on Aug. 5.

Woody Marshall / AP

Students arrive by bus for the first day of school at Kernodle Middle School in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Aug. 23.

Paul Hennessy / Sipa USA via AP

Students wearing face masks wait to be picked up by their parents at Pershing School in Orlando.

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Trish Gomes and her daughter Maeve, 10 (right), greet Lauren Bradford (left) and her son Tyler, 8 (center), at the Long Branch Elementary School on Aug. 30 in Arlington, Virginia.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.