BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — Friday it was back to the classroom for a few hundred students at a private year-round school in Blount County.
Clayton-Bradley Academy, a STEM school that teaches students K-12, had students on campus for class for the first time in months. Teachers and students wore masks indoors and outdoors.
"This is my first day back. Now I'm in third grade," said Mason Ivens. "We're having to wear our masks inside and outside. If we want to take it off, we have to go to our 'smart seat' which is seven feet from a person. We face the wall when we take it off."
Ivens said it was an adjustment wearing the mask non-stop for several hours.
"Sometimes, I kind of want to take it off. I mean, it doesn't bother me. I just kind of want a break. It was also kind of weird with everyone having masks on. As the school day went on, I kind of got more used to seeing people with the mask," said Ivers.
As a smaller private school, Clayton-Bradley Academy benefits from smaller class sizes and more space to spread students out.
The school simultaneously offers in-person instruction at the school as well as a remote-learning option. The first week of classes will allow students to test the in-person option before deciding how to spend the remainder of the nine-week session.
"We have to decide if we're going virtual or online in school. So, I'm still having that in mind." Ivers continued, "I want to be with my friends and talk to my friends. But I also want to be safe from COVID-19. So, I'm like, which one should I choose?"
The choice Ivers is weighing is a common one for parents and students throughout East Tennessee and the nation. For now, Ivens said he's leaning towards trying in-person.
"I'm glad to be there [on-campus] because it makes me feel normal. I'm a really social person," said Ivers.