‘It’s like a new beginning’: Mask free, Boise students return to school for first day

Darin Oswald/doswald@idahostatesman.com

Teachers and administrators lined up along the entrance to Capital High School on Wednesday morning, cheering and clapping as they excitedly welcomed students back on the first day of school.

Music was blaring in the background as cheerleaders, dressed in their uniforms, waved their pompoms while their classmates walked through the entrance of the building for the first-day-of-school assembly. Many other teachers wore Capital High shirts as they danced and waved to both new and familiar faces.

It’s a Capital High tradition to kick off the year this way, Principal Derek Gardner said. Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school didn’t have its typical celebrations.

“It’s a special way to start the year because they get to see their teachers, they get applauded as they’re coming in and then they get to learn a little bit about Capital history and participate in the fun assembly,” he told the Idaho Statesman. “It’s a unique way to start the year.”

Students across the Boise School District returned Wednesday for the 2022-23 school year. Most other students in the Treasure Valley will be back in school by the end of next week, beginning what they hope is a school year that looks and feels more normal than the past few years.

Caldwell students returned earlier this week, Nampa students start Thursday and West Ada students will return Tuesday.

No districts in the region are requiring masks this year — unlike last year, when both Boise and West Ada started off the year with mask mandates. Walking into Capital High on Wednesday, few students wore masks.

Gardner said he’s happy to be able to welcome everyone back to the building.

“I’m excited for these guys, for the kids,” he said. “The energy is good. It’s different than it has been the last couple of years. … To have them in the building under somewhat normal circumstances is a victory.”

Teachers, students say they’re energized for school year

Teachers said they have a lot of energy going into this year. They’re excited to build relationships with new students and to see their colleagues.

Tara Brandenburg-Weeks, who teaches English language development, said the best part of starting the school year is meeting the new students. She’s in her second year at Capital High.

“I’m really excited to build relationships with them and to watch them grow into young adults,” she said.

During the assembly, she joined a team of staff members in a hula hoop contest. The teams had to hold hands and get a hula hoop from the first person to the last person as fast as they could.

Students said they were also excited to return to school for what they hope is a more normal year with assemblies, and without masks or social distancing. They’re looking forward to seeing their friends and teachers, starting new classes and getting back to sports.

Standing outside the doors to the assembly, a group of seniors and juniors held pink balloons, tossing them around as they prepared for their part in the assembly: trying to pop the balloons without using their hands.

Gabi Mauzerall, a senior, said she was most excited for the soccer season. The team has been working hard over the summer ahead of the season, and is hoping their work pays off.

Mauzerall and her teammates said it’s nice to be able to have the first day of school assembly — especially after their high school years have taken place during the pandemic.

This year, they’re glad things feel normal, and that they get to have a more traditional high school experience.

Tracy Green, who’s in her 12th year at Capital High, said she feels even more energetic this year than in past years. Green is a special-education assistant and teaches drivers education.

“I think it was a long, slow haul, but this year … it’s like a new beginning,” Green said. “And everybody’s very excited for it.”