SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — As the pace of school reopenings across the Bay Area remains uneven and maddening for many parents, the Santa Clara Unified School District launched a phased reopening plan in which all grades will return to campus for in-person learning over the next two weeks.

First- and second-graders were the first to return to campus after the district struck a deal with its teachers to return to the classroom when the county entered the less restrictive orange tier. Vaccinations were not a condition of the district’s school reopening plan.

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“In our classrooms, we have desk shields up for our students and everyone is six-foot distanced from each other,” said Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is among other Bay Area leaders urging school systems to accelerate reopening plans, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

However, the city’s largest school system – San Jose Unified School District – won’t reopen until late next month on April 21. The teachers’ union struck a deal requiring teachers be fully vaccinated before returning to the classroom.

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“We’ve seen throughout the country that schools have safely reopened – particularly elementary schools – even without the vaccination of teachers,” said Liccardo. “The studies show it certainly can be done.”

Many parents say they’re thankful to be returning to the classroom sooner rather than later.

“Being away from their friends and their teachers and not being in a traditional classroom environment has been hard on them,” said parent Amy Plodek.

“I’m enjoying being back in a classroom because I feel like that’s where I work my best,” said 5th grader Peter Plodek.

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