School officially began for Stephenville ISD on Wednesday, Aug. 19, with most students stepping foot on campus for the first time since March when schools were shut down and virtual learning began.


As for how the first day went, Superintendent Matt Underwood sent out an email to staff Wednesday, saying how proud he was to be a part of this "amazing district."


"I have never in my life witnessed the effort, care, and attention to detail that was on display today," he wrote. "The parents have never been so grateful, the kids so respectful, and our efforts so genuine. Since March 8th this pandemic has been an enormous struggle for our school community, and although the future may still be uncertain, I know for sure that I don't want to face it with anyone else. Best Day in Education in my 27 years!"


When asked how it feels having students back in school, Underwood said, "I think that the biggest ‘aha!’ moment of the past six months was to see the excitement in their eyes, our staff's expressions, and the most appreciative comments from our parents. It made all the months of uncertainty and frustration worth the effort."


As of the school board meeting on Monday, 3,561 students were registered in the district with 710 choosing to undergo the virtual route for instruction, while 2,851 chose to attend school face-to-face.


For students participating in remote learning, the curriculum will be more rigorous than spring 2020 and will include a combination of scheduled, virtual instruction and recorded lessons, according to sville.us.


The following is a list of what faculty and staff will expect from students utilizing virtual instruction:


• Teachers will need to see progress every day


• Attendance will be taken


• The state 90% compulsory attendance rule will be in effect


• The district grading guidelines are the same as face-to-face


• Proctored exams will be required in person with enhanced social distancing or online


For students participating in face-to-face instruction, under the current COVID-19 statistical conditions and Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders, masks are required for all students grades four and above, while masks are optional for grades pre-K through third.


Social distancing will also be implemented in all classrooms to the extent possible and visitors are restricted to those only essential to school operations.


"I had heard from others how compliant their kids have been so I wasn't that surprised how great our kids were adhering to the practice," Underwood said. "I hate the masks, and they still bother me, but the students that I've visited with agreed that you do get used to them over time. We are still working on social distancing due mostly to the fact that many of these kids have not seen each other in a very long time. We are also still working through different scenarios to increase the social distancing in the mornings and in some of our larger classes."


The district is currently working with SSC Services for Education to improve sanitation services and have added six new staff members to help with increased sanitation measures.


"We have had some technical issues with our new LMS due to late scheduling and registering of students; however, I know that we have the best technology team in Texas without a doubt, and they are resolving the issues. I also believe that each update to our public health guidelines will get better as more research is conducted on the virus," Underwood said. "Opening schools allows us to learn from each other and compare notes and protocols. I know without a doubt that we have, and will make many mistakes through this process, but I am committed to providing our students the best educational environment possible."