SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD) will kick off the new school year on Wednesday, allowing all students to return to campus for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

“Aside from a small group of elementary students who were able to return to a hybrid model, this is the first time that all of our students from Pre-K through 12 will be coming back to campus,” Superintendent Dr. Shawnterra Moore said. “We are going to be maneuvering in a very cautious way, making sure that we are communicating what the expectations are for health and safety, and holding ourselves and one another accountable, but we are excited to get kids back.”

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Some of the changes include updated HVAC systems, a new emphasis on healthy hand hygiene, mandatory masks for students, staff, and visitors, and the addition of 30 mobile disinfectant units.

“It is an ultraviolet, antimicrobial machine,” interim Director of Facilities John Daley said. “Anything the light hits – it will kill the bacteria in the room.”

Daley explained that the units can disinfect a classroom in about 3-4 minutes, and an auditorium in about 30 minutes. This cleaning process will be done after school every day.

“We call it zapping – we zap every room in the school,” he continued. He says the district will keep these around long after the pandemic.

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“The amount of germs that it’s going to eradicate to keep our kids in the classrooms and in school is going to be greatly increased,” he said.

The Hong family visited Buri Buri Elementary School on Tuesday to help their daughter Isabella get her bearings ahead of her first day back in the classroom in more than a year.

“We’re nervous, but I think for now it’s the best for Isabella to go back to school, be with her friends, and socialize – but obviously with a mask on and all that,” Christian Hong said. “We would not be allowing her to come back to school – we’d homeschool her – if they were not doing these measures.”

Superintendent Moore said some families are opting to keep their kids out of the classrooms by having them do an independent study program, but the vast majority of the 8,000+ students in the district will be back in the classrooms.

“Right now, I’d say approximately 80 are interested,” she said.

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“There may be students who don’t want to wear masks – and those type of individual situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis,” she continued. “Wearing masks has really proven to be a mitigation strategy that can really minimize the transmission of the virus.”