HIALEAH GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - When class begins in Miami-Dade County next week, all students, teachers and staff will need to wear a mask, but that has not stopped teachers from making the return to school more welcoming.

Maria Marrero, a teacher at Hialeah Gardens Elementary School, could be seen preparing her classroom for incoming students on Monday.

“It was really difficult on all of us in learning, the social,” Marrero said. “It’s been difficult. They need some normalcy.”

However, the start of the 2021-22 school year will not be normal, but Marrero said she is determined to make it feel that way for a classroom full of second-graders wearing masks.

“The students wore it,” Marrero said. “The teachers here sometimes give them a mask break, so there was really no concern. The students were happy, and they were happy to be in the classroom.”

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho toured the elementary school’s COVID-19 safety measures on Friday. He said the face covering requirement is flexible for students with a medical excuse.

“With the appropriate accommodations based on medical advice and endorsement with the flexibility and compassion for students with disabilities,” Carvalho said.

Other protocols include frequent cleaning, social distancing in the lunchroom with assigned seats and hand sanitizer on every table.

“We are pivoting away from what has been a distracting conversation about protocols,” Carvalho said. “Now it’s time for us to reunify in one single focal point, and that is the well-being and the academic need of every single child.”

Marrero said she is ready to start working toward filling the gaps left behind from a year of virtual learning.

“We’re ready for this challenge,” she said. “I think we can do this. We got this.”

For more information about Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ COVID-19 protocols, click here.

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