The start of the school year seemed more overwhelming than ever before. One could observe the mixed feelings of excitement, joy, and confusion among the students, parents, and teachers at Kashmir Harvard Educational Institute.

Early morning on the first day of school, students began gathering in the garden of Kashmir Harvard. While it was mandatory for the students to wear masks, all of them — including the youngest among them — were covering their faces. This was done solely for the purpose of hygienic protection, but also to demonstrate students’ awareness about COVID-19. After the many weeks of distance learning, which was challenging for children, parents, and teachers alike, the willingness to go back to normal learning processes is now demonstrably high; everyone displays a readiness to comply with the new safety regulations set by the government. All the standard safety procedures are observed as children enter the school building: they pass a disinfection barrier, a thermal screening, and they sanitize their hands. Although hand sanitizers are installed throughout the building, teachers also encourage the children to sanitize and wash their hands after each lesson. The first day back in the classroom was unusual and emotional for both students and teachers. Wearing a mask, which is mandatory for teachers, makes their jobs physically harder due to the strained breathing. Masks also cover their emotional expressions, requiring students to focus harder to equally understand the information teachers are conveying.

Both parents and children are happy to be back at school, and do not wish to return to distance learning. They say that they are ready to follow all the regulations set by the authorities. The students emphasize how important it is to be physically present in the classroom, to interact with friends, and to share opinions about different subjects with each other and with their teachers.  The readiness and enthusiasm of the parents, children, and administration to adapt to the new set of in-school rules makes the safe management of the learning process possible during this shared COVID-19 reality.

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