ALTADENA (CBSLA) — Emotions ran high and there were some tears – and not necessarily from students – on the first day of school at Jackson Elementary School.

More than 14,000 children donned their face masks and headed back to Pasadena Unified School District campuses Thursday. But unlike most first days of school filled with excitement, the ongoing pandemic continued to overshadow the prospect of meeting new teachers and friends.

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(credit: CBS)

“It’s very exciting, but I want to cry because I’m so emotional,” mother Rosie Etters said, gesturing to demonstrate her anxiety. “But she’s going to do great.”

This school year, all parents are struggling with keeping their children safe, but also resume some semblance of normalcy and help them get back to learning.

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“I do feel like she’s probably got a little bit of catching up. I tried to do as best as I could at home,” mother Brenda Gonzalez said.

Julie Silk, the district’s teacher of the year, will be among the staff helping get students back on track this year. She says she anticipates some very anxious kids, some of whom never met their kindergarten teachers or their classmates in person.

“Some of them haven’t left their homes, so it’s going to be overwhelming for some of them to be around this many people, and away from their families for the first time,” she said.

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This year, safety is a top priority, and the district has mandated masks not only indoors but also outdoors when the children are close together. The state has also decreed this week that teachers and school workers must be vaccinated, or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.