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'It's Life Changing To See Them Go To School': Peoria Parents Celebrate First Day Of School

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Hannah Alani
/
WCBU
Students return to Franklin Primary School in Peoria on the first day of school on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

It's the first day of school in Peoria and students at Franklin Primary School in Peoria's University East neighborhood got a special welcome.

"You are strong!"

"You've got this!"

"We are champions!"

Those were some of the signs held by neighbors, teachers, police officers and other volunteers who gathered outside the school, 807 W. Columbia Terrace, to welcome students back to the classroom.

Peoria Public Schools reopened for the fall semester on Wednesday, but like many school districts, local leaders decided to enforce a mask mandate for students, teachers and staff.

As the Delta variant continues to spread across America, doctors are seeing increased infections among unvaccinated children and infants. The majority of hospitalizations from COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated. Currently, the minimum age to receive the vaccine is 12.

Experts say the best way to protect unvaccinated children is to have them wear masks in schools and other public settings and for older family members to receive the vaccine. As of last week, only 47 percent of Peoria County residents were fully vaccinated.

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Hannah Alani
A woman adjusts a mask for a student outside Franklin Primary School in Peoria on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

Franklin second grader Cristo Hernandez stood outside the school wearing a black mask across his face. He was escorted inside by his father, Jesus Hernandez, who while he is worried about the spread of the virus, was was excited his son could go back to school.

"I'm just glad because being at home is not really too good," he said. "I'd rather have him in school instead and learning more."

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Hannah Alani
Students return to Franklin Primary School in Peoria on the first day of school on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

Keisha Holmes and Ludell Redmon both attended Franklin years ago. Now their children are students at the school.

While both mothers worried about the spread of the Delta variant, they agreed the classroom was a better learning environment for their children than home.

"I am so happy that the children get to go to school," Holmes said. "With the pandemic, staying at home and stuff, not being able to socialize with children and stuff like that ... It's not the same, over the computer. They get distracted. ... It's life changing to see them go to school."

Now that school's back in session, Redmon called on other Franklin parents to take the time to educate their children on safety measures related to coronavirus spread.

"They really need to tell their kids to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they sneeze," she said. "It starts at home."

Holmes agreed.

"It takes a village," she said.

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Hannah Alani
Students return to Franklin Primary School in Peoria on the first day of school on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.
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