LIVERMORE (CBS SF/AP) — Students returned to Livermore classrooms Monday for the first time since they were sent home a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic tightened its deadly grip on the San Francisco Bay Area.

But the school day will be far from what they experienced in the past. Several precautions have been put into place to increase their safety from catching the virus including smaller class sizes, temperature taking, social distancing and mask wearing requirements.

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In the hybrid scheduling system, elementary students will be allowed to attend in-person classes four days a week while older students will be limited to just two.

When it comes to social distancing, classes could soon double in size after state health officials decided over the weekend to adopt the CDC’s recommendation of 3-foot separation between students. The previous health order required 6 feet in separation.

Local education leaders will have the final say on distancing. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, says it will stick with the 6-foot rule. Other districts across the state will likely embrace the revised rules.

After soaring late last year and in January, the rates of COVID-19 infection are so low in Los Angeles and across the state that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said he’s feeling hopeful for the first time in a year.

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As vaccinations ramp up and new cases drop, San Francisco Bay Area counties have started easing virus restrictions, allowing restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to reopen with limited capacity.

“Here in Los Angeles, we have a positivity rate of 1.9%, and we estimate that anywhere between half and two thirds of our population has antibodies in it now, either because of exposure to COVID-19 and vaccination,” Garcetti told CBS’ Face the Nation. “So this is a very, very optimistic moment.”

Across California the positivity rate over the past seven days is 1.8%, the state Department of Public Health said Sunday.

Garcetti said last week that a lot of pandemic deaths could have been prevented in California if the state had focused earlier on vaccinating people in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initial tightly constrained approach focused on vaccinating residents by age and profession. He has since set aside 40% of all doses for people in the state’s poorest areas.