Students at Detroit Lakes Middle School attended in-person classes Monday for the first time in the COVID-19 era.

The school has implemented mask mandates for the students, new socially distant lunch room policies, staggered classroom transit for students in the hallways and new bus boarding procedures in an effort to protect the health of all of their students.

"I'm hoping that (the new policies) just get easier everyday that we do it," said Danielle Schmitz, a seventh grade social studies teacher at Detroit Lakes Middle School. "It's brand new to all of us ... the technology piece and the schedule, everything is new to us."

Schmitz said she thinks the kids were happy to be back, but old habits like talking to friends across the room and staying at their desks is different than the students were used to.

"It's definitely a new learning curve...but I thought the kids handled it pretty well," said Jason Hendrickson, a seventh grade technology applications teacher at Detroit Lakes Middle School.

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The cafeteria lunch tables have Xs on every other seat to limit the students per table and buses are loaded two-at-time instead of allowing the usual mass boarding in which students were accustomed.

Both teachers said it was difficult to see the smiling faces on the students, but they were able to read the student's "smiling eyes."

After a high school staff member tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, high school students began the school year Tuesday under full-distance-learning protocols, which will run until Sep. 25. The school had hoped to begin the year with a hybrid-model of learning with both in-person and distance instruction.

"Kids are pretty good at adapting these days," said Hendrickson, "so I think they are going to handle (the new policies) pretty well."