CLARK COUNTY — Class is back in session in Greater Clark County Schools, and schools are seeing high numbers for in-person enrollment as fewer families opt for virtual learning.

School started Wednesday with a little more than 10,000 students returning to classes across the district.

Greater Clark Superintendent Mark Laughner said only 160 students in the district are attending school virtually this year, a big difference from the 3,000 students, or 30% of the student population, enrolled in remote learning last school year.

“We feel good that the kids are back in school,” he said. “We believe that the best learning is in-person learning and that virtual is very tough on students and their pace of learning. We’re very glad that the students are back, and we know the teachers are happy.”

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Jeffersonville High School Principal Pam Hall said the first day of school was “exciting but a little overwhelming” as hundreds of students searched for their lockers and classrooms.

“We’ve had about 700 or 800 kids who were virtual last year either for the whole year or for part of the year, so we have them back on campus, and we have 650 freshmen, the largest class in over 25 years,” she said.

This year, only 23 Jeffersonville High School students are in the Greater Clark virtual academy, Hall said.

“We have over 2,200 [students] back in our building for the first time since March 13 [of last year],” she said.

At Northaven Elementary School in Jeffersonville, Principal Laura Morris joined teachers and staff to guide the car rider line as many families dropped their children off at school for the first day.

Morris said the school has about 70 new students from Bridgepoint Elementary, a Jeffersonville school that closed at the end of last school year.

Northaven started school last year with only 350 students attending in-person, but this year, the number increased to about 600, Morris said.

“I’m excited for them to get to feel the love of the Northaven family,” she said.

As Laughner started his day visiting Jeffersonville High School Wednesday morning, he said he “noticed the excitement of the kids to be here and to be around their peers and their friends and talking to the teachers.”

Laughner said one of the top priorities is getting the students and teachers into a “nice routine of what we have done in the past.”

“Really, what we want to make sure we do this year is get the focus back on academics and academic growth,” he said. “Last year was tough in that regard just because of the virtual piece, and really, everyone was just trying to make it through the pandemic. Yes, we focused on academics, but not to the level that we had in the past year.”

Hall said she feels last year was successful as the first school district in Indiana to return to in-person classes, and she is “looking to this as a transition year from those very tight COVID protocols to hopefully next year being completely back to normal.”

She is happy to see kids back in school with their friends, she said.

“We’re so excited this morning to have everyone back and just hit the ground running,” she said. “Last year, if I had to sum it up, we felt like our kids were kind of zombies going through the motions because it was so overwhelming.”

Northaven Elementary student Evelynn Taylor, 7, was thrilled to start her first day of second grade and to socialize with her friends.

“I’m just going to have to get used to a new teacher,” she said. “I had the same teacher three times, and she was the best.”

As Kimberly Nelson dropped off her 5-year-old son, Jeremiah Hoskins, at Northaven Elementary, she was looking forward to hearing all about his first day of kindergarten.

“I’m pretty much excited for him to come home and tell me all about his first how day went,” she said. “He’s overwhelmed right now, but I can’t wait for him to come home and say, well Mommy, I actually made this friend, I learned this, I did that — that’s what I get excited about.”

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