By Nicole Ford

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Monday kicks off the beginning of the new school year, at least for teachers and staff at Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“Whatever normal may be, we are back. We are back and that’s all that matters,” said LouAnn Zwieryznski, who’s the Principal at Pittsburgh Liberty.

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There is still a lot to do before kids walk through the doors on Friday.

“There’s a lot to prepare for, we do a lot of cleaning, a lot of labeling, a lot of organizing,” said first grade teacher Meiko Garcia.

It’s a week that teachers are heading into with a new level of excitement after a year of pandemic changes.

“I learned more appreciation for being with the kids and being with my coworkers and how important teamwork is,” Garcia said.

It’s a team effort to prepare to welcome those kids back to the elementary school on Friday.

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“Taking a look at spacing, are the students going to be safe? Is the correct signage up? Communicating with parents who needed a different option beside face-to-face learning, you name it, I think I’ve done it,” Zwieryznski said.

While there are the physical preparations, Zwieryznski told KDKA the staff has also made changes to programs to help the kids socially.

“Students are going to be grouped K-5, so fifth graders will be mentors to 3rd graders and so forth so that all students have a mentor, and the transition is easier and they have more people to talk with,” Zwieryznski said.

The goal for the kids is to excel educationally and socially; but for the teachers, the thrill comes from finally being reunited in person with the little ones who help bring joy to the job.

“Once the students come back, it’s like, ‘ah this is why we do this.’ I’m always happy to see them face-to-face,” Zwieryznski said.

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The principal told KDKA everything is timed out to the second to make sure social distancing is in place for all of the students. Just a reminder, masks are required for all staff and students inside the school buildings.