By CBSLA Staff

ANAHEIM (CBSLA) — Kindergarten student Luke Velasco was nervous about returning to school Monday – not because of coronavirus fears, but because it was the first time he would meet his teacher, Mrs. Kim, in person.

For a student like Luke, who is enrolled in Jefferson Elementary School’s Korean language immersion program, learning virtually can be especially difficult.

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“It can be really challenging to do that virtually,” Seung Kyeong Kim, Luke’s teacher, said. “So to have it in person with the full potential, I’m very excited.”

About 16,000 students from across the Anaheim elementary district returned to their campuses Monday for the first time in 13 months. Students wore masks and sat at classrooms outfitted with plastic barriers on each desk for a couple of hours of in-person instruction.

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This district waited a little longer than others in Orange County to reopen because COVID-19 was more widespread in Anaheim and Santa Ana throughout the year. But, “in the past six weeks, there’s been a drastic decline,” Superintendent Dr. Christopher Downing said.

Eighty percent of the district’s parents say they’re now ready to come back – among them Andy Yun, who says his daughters’ grandparents are now fully vaccinated. Yun said he had to prepare his daughters for all the safety changes and precautions – especially the social distancing.

“My daughters are huggers, though” he said. “So I’ve told them you cannot go near people and start hugging people.”

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Elementary school students in Pasadena and in the Los Angeles Unified School District are also scheduled to return to campuses this week.