Students walk in a line with teacher Dana Friend and through the door of Waller School Aug. 17 for the start of a 2020-21 school year. Class began earlier than normal  to accommodate construction of the district’s new middle school, which is slated to open for the 2021-22 academic year. (Photo by Mike Ramczyk)

Parents express relief on first day of challenging semester

There was excitement in the air Aug. 17 at Waller Elementary School.

Hundreds of students lined up outside the school and teachers made sure they were in single-file lines with each student wearing a mask.

Meanwhile, proud parents fought back tears.

There were final goodbyes, including hugs, kisses and first day of school photos.

This first day – in the midst of a pandemic – felt just a bit more special, parents said.

After months of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and whether students would be allowed to go back to school, the Burlington Area School District became one the first districts in southeastern Wisconsin to have full, five-day in-person instruction at the elementary school level.

Judging by the smiles behind the teachers’ masks, everyone was happy to be back at work, a place taken away from them after the state shut down schools in March.

Students in grades 7-12 returned under a hybrid model with students attending on alternating days.

Like most districts, however, the first semester in Burlington wasn’t without challenges. The district experienced isolated grade-level shutdowns due to confirmed coronavirus cases and others impacted by contact tracing. The district also suspended all in-person classes for a period following the Thanksgiving break as cases in the area, state and nation surged.