BILLINGS - Monday marked the first day of school for School District 2 students, staff, and faculty after a year of uncertainty and change due to the pandemic.
But this year, parents and students are ready for a fresh start.
In the schoolyard at McKinley Elementary school, parents were seen hugging their children before they took those steps inside the school to begin a new school year again.
“I've been anticipating and waiting,” said Kara Eaton, whose two young boys are beginning the school year in first grade and in kindergarten.
Most things will be back to normal, except for a mask mandate, which Superintendent Greg Upham implemented over the weekend after a COVID-19 outbreak on Skyview's football team.
Eaton says she’s been doing a good job of holding emotions so far.
“I have a feeling there'll be a few tears,” she said.
For plenty of parents, that sentiment is also true as the first day of school marks a big milestone in each student’s life.
But as dad Dusty Eaton explains, this year the first day of school is different. It’s a chance to start again.
“Yeah, it's been a great summer. We really maximized on it, had a good time and the kids are ready,” he said. “Last year was kind of hit and miss, and now the kids are really excited for a full year and getting back to it.”
Before saying goodbye, Kara Eaton snapped a few first days of school pictures of the boys.
“Are you excited?” asked Dusty Eaton. “Yeah!” the boys replied.
He’s hoping this year the boys excel.
“We talked a lot about it, but this is the first year for Porter so we talked about meeting new kids, breaking out of his shell,” he said.
For the Romrell family, it's much of the same as they send their oldest daughter Rosie off to Kindergarten as well.
Mom Emily tries her hardest to calm the nerves of her daughter.
“That’s okay to be nervous. I know you're going to have a great time,” she said.
But she admits, she’s got some nerves of her own.
“I'm excited for her but I'm like super nervous, but I'm still kind of panicking, like sending her away for the whole day,” said Romrell.
She’s also been dealing with the emotions of sending her daughter to school for the first time through so much uncertainty.
This as little Rosie adorns her little purple mask.
“Lots of talking with my husband and I think just trying to stay positive and have faith that she's going to have an amazing time and an amazing experience and make lots of great friends,” said Romrell.