DOUGLAS — Students in the Douglas Unified School District begin school Thursday.

All DUSD schools will be open for in-person instruction in the traditional setting on Thursday.

“We have been working on our return to school plans and preparing our school buildings to welcome back all of our students to a safe learning environment,” Ana Samaniego, DUSD superintendent, said in a statement on the school’s website. “We are excited to have all of our Douglas students back in schools where they belong. There are so many advantages to going to school and every child needs that opportunity. Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of our communities. They provide an environment where children can learn a lot of basic skills, gain an abundance of knowledge and information, develop their talents, learn from experts, and meet friends. School is much more fun if children have their friends around to share their interests and laughter. DUSD also thanks and appreciates all of our teachers, support staff, school professionals, instructional leaders, our entire school community, parents/families, and local health clinics for all their support and collaboration as we faced many challenges during the pandemic.”

Samaniego states masking is no longer required for students or staff, though it is highly recommended as the new delta variant of COVID–19 is more transmissible.

“Following CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) order and guidance from Arizona School Board Association, students in buses will be required to wear a mask. Social distancing will be maximized to the extent possible. Continued rigorous cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces and rooms will continue. Hand washing and sanitizing will continue. Water fill stations will be open. We encourage students to bring their own water bottle or container. Any student who is out for COVID will need to be excused by their parents. Students will still be responsible for make-up work. No virtual instruction will be provided, but students can check in with their teachers via email, telephone, or any other form of communication to get work submitted.”

Breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided to the students.

“Once again, we are excited to welcome students back to our schools,” Samaniego stated. “Let’s not get back to normal, let’s get back to doing things better! For more information, please visit your child’s school website and social media.”

Damarie Carrillo, a first-year teacher at Sarah Marley where she will be teaching 22 fourth graders, was busy decorating her classroom Monday.

She admits she is somewhat nervous about her first day but at the same time eager and “really excited” to meet her new students.

In anticipation of school starting Douglas High School hosted a boot camp for all incoming freshmen and first-year sophomores Monday.

An estimated 150 students took part in the 2 1/2 hour event. The students were broken up into four groups and introduced to the various clubs and organizations DHS has to offer and provided a tour of the campus, highlighting special rooms they will need to be aware of. There was also a dress code fashion show and a “breakout” event where students were encouraged to meet someone in their class they did not know prior to the event.

Many of the incoming freshmen said they found the boot camp helpful.

Reynaldo Torres, who comes to DHS from Paul Huber Middle School, and Maya Solis, who is coming from Liberty Traditional, were two students who met for the first time during the breakout event.

Both freshmen said they were glad they attended the event and feel a little more prepared as the new school year approaches.

The orientation was hosted by the Douglas Student Council under the direction of Scarlett Hughes and her student council officers.

“We’re hoping to make the first day as smooth as possible for many of these students,” said Kamilla Barrios, the student council president. “There’s only so much we can do but I think we did a pretty good job of welcoming them and showing them where things are so they will have an idea when school begins on Thursday.”

Barrios, a senior, said the boot camp was not held last year due to COVID-19 and she is happy this school year is beginning in a relatively normal manner.

Barrios attended a similar type of boot camp when she was a freshman and remembers the nerves she experienced prior to school starting.

“These students need to be aware it’s not going to be as bad as they think,” she said.

Douglas High School principal Melissa Rodriguez reported that as of Monday 1,471 students had enrolled at DHS this year and more were registering. As of Tuesday district student enrollment numbers were at 4,013 students.