ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- On Monday, Rochester Public Schools grades pre-k to fifth-grade will return to full-time in-person learning.
RPS students haven't learned in-person full-time since March of 2020.
"I've been waiting for this for almost a whole year and I get to see everybody," said Esme Gargollo, a fifth-grader at Bamber Valley Elementary School. "I get to see everyone. It's like, 'wow I get to have a full class.' I think everybody's going to be really happy."
Her little sister Maisie, who is in the first grade, shared her excitement as well.
"I was so happy with joy," she said.
Their father, Patricio, has been a big advocate for in-person learning.
"We're just really grateful that they were able to get a few months before the school year ends with full in-person learning. For them, I think it's going to be fantastic," Gargollo said.
Another RPS parent agreed.
"They need that interaction with their peers and they need to be hands-on learning and the socialization is big," said Rachel.
Gargollo has been an outspoken advocate for in-person learning, and he has protested against the school board's decisions that, didn't allow children to learn in the classroom full-time. He even pulled his 7th-grade son out of the RPS system.
"These are social little beings. They're meant to be around other people. They're not meant to sit in front of a screen. As parents, we fight so hard to limit screen time. And here we have our schools telling us that our children need to be in front of a screen for 6 to 8 hours a day and it just makes no sense," he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer children have got sick from COVID-19 compared to adults. So, these parents also understand the need for teacher's health.
"You know, hopefully our teachers will get vaccinated and given priority which I think is a really big push for a lot of us parents in the community," Gargollo said.
He is also confident that children will obey school COVID-19 rules.
"As adults we think these kids aren't going to leave their masks on or they're not going to follow directions. They're way better than most adults I see out in the community. I mean, they're like soldiers. They will do whatever it takes to be in school," Gargollo said.
As for the first day back, Maisie is looking forward to a fun but safe back to school.
"I get to go to school dressed as a superhero. There's going to be all different superhero masks and capes laid down on our desks," she said.
Her big sister hopes other young learners stay resilient during this time.
"Stay brave and be like, 'I got this. I will be able to see these people soon. And I just have to keep on fighting through this and it will someday,'" Esme said.
Secondary students are scheduled to return to in-person learning by April 5.
The school board will discuss the high school schedule at the board meeting Mar. 2.