By Lisa Gresci

ROXBURY (CBS) – Thousands of children returned to school in Boston Thursday, despite a rise in coronavirus cases that moved the city into one of the state’s high-risk zones.

Thirty of those students were welcomed back to Ellis Elementary School in Roxbury, where excitement and nerves were at an all-time high.

“It’s been a lot of months since I’ve been here in person,” said fifth-grader Edward Velazquez. “I thought school was boring, but then when I got home and I had nothing else to do, I kind of missed school.”

Velazquez is one of the more than 3,700 high-need students to come back to school for hybrid learning. But the first day of school jitters were felt across all ages and titles on Thursday morning.

“For me, I’ve been nervous the entire six, seven months, making sure our young people are safe,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “If these numbers go up, then what happens is we potentially can’t go to the next phase of school.”

Fighting back tears, Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang said Thursday was an “emotional moment.”

“People have been working so hard, 24/7, for months straight now to prepare for this moment,” said Tang.

As of now, what one can expect in these classrooms is spacing measures being followed, masks and hand sanitizer at the ready and smaller class sizes.

“Our buildings are clean, our bathrooms are clean, we have cleaning supplies ready for them,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brenda Cassellius. “We have a lot of signage for them obviously.”

Still, parents can’t help but have mixed emotions.

“I have to explain to him that it’s a serious situation,” said one parent about getting their child ready for in-person learning.

Yet students walked into school for the first time in months, with masks on, smiling with their eyes, and happy to finally see some familiar faces.

The district plans on continuing its hybrid-learning plan unless the city remains in the red zone for three consecutive weeks. Mayor Walsh is asking parents to keep children home if anyone in the family is experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Lisa Gresci

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