OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -- Shawnee Mission South staff rolled out the red carpet for returning students Friday.

The 10th, 11th and 12th graders were welcomed back to the building with cheerleaders at the entrance, pep band playing in the hallway and teachers giving out fist bumps and elbow bumps at their doors.

Younger students in the Shawnee Mission School District had their first day of school Thursday.

District policy requires all students, regardless of age or vaccination status, to wear a mask while inside school buildings. The SMSD Board of Education originally voted to have a mask policy for K-6th students, then expanded the requirement to cover all students, staff and visitors.

“Our kids are so good. They wear their masks. They don’t have any challenges associated with that. It seems to impact adults a little bit more,” said David A. Smith, Chief Communications Officer for the district.

Fall sports and activities are set to begin on time, Monday, August 16. The spread of COVID-19 in the community delayed the start of extracurriculars at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Participants will follow the Kansas State High School Activities Association guidelines for safe play, including wearing a mask when not actively participating in play. The district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan says the board may implement stricter policies if needed.

Smith said one of the goals for teachers in the first semester is to identify where the greatest learning gaps may be for their students, and what topics did they cover virtually they may need to cover again.

“It’s a constant checking in with kids in a variety of ways to see are they getting it, and making sure, as a teacher, do I need to circle back,” he said.

Shawnee Mission South staff said seeing students walk through the doors again renewed their energy and enthusiasm.

“This is what we do. We’re about kids, and we’re so excited for this,” Smith said.

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