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Both ease and worry mark first day of school for metro Atlanta families

According to the district, 78 percent of the parents have opted to return to the classroom for in-person learning,

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — Many parents in Cherokee County dropped their kids off for the first day back to school on Monday morning.

One of those parents was Frankie Martinez. He said they thought about the decision a lot. 

"But my wife works at the school, too, so she knows he is going to be safe. I think we are going to be okay. Go to school, but if kids begin to feel a little bad just take them back home," Martinez said

According to the district, 78 percent of the parents have opted to return to the classroom for in-person learning, with just under 10,000 of the districts' nearly 43,000 students going completely virtual.

First-day jitters are common but, this time around, the coronavirus is adding a level of uncertainty for some families in Cherokee County.

The superintendent, Dr. Brian Hightower, posted a statement on the school's website Monday, about how the first day of classes went.

"This morning, my leadership team and I fanned out across CCSD to ensure every school had a visit by me or my senior staff.  At every turn, we saw our teachers, our staff and our students working together to succeed," the letter reads. 

"I lost track of the hundreds of different masks our students smiled from behind – the hot pink unicorns, the video game logos, the school mascots," the statement continued. "Even if you couldn’t see their smiles, you saw the skip in their step and heard their pride as they answered their teacher’s questions."

RELATED: Three-quarters of Cherokee County students back for in-person learning today

The district issued guidelines for a safe return, but some parents still fear safe pandemic protocols can't be enforced. One person, related to a teacher, told 11Alive that he doesn't feel comfortable with his loved one going back to school. He said social distancing is not a realistic option.

"What we see on paper [is] simply not what's feasible to happen in classrooms hallways and public gathering spots," he said.

He believes that masks for students aren't enough. 

"Wear a mask it can't be optional- given a choice kids will not especially in high school," he added.

He shared that his relative was in the building Monday because of her dedication to the students. However, she is nervous and scared.

RELATED: CDC report: More than 200 children infected with COVID-19 at Georgia overnight camp

The superintendent in his letter addressed some of the challenges they may face.

"We know we’re living through a pandemic.  We’re going to take positive cases seriously – we care about our kids and our team of dedicated teachers and staff," the letter reads. " And, as we’ve said since we announced our reopening plan, we will shut down classes and/or schools if cases rise and closures are in the best interest of our community."

Hightower added in addition to contact tracing, they would notify parents of positive cases at their child's school. Read the full letter here.

RELATED: Why is virtual teaching a major challenge for educators?