“It’s been too long,” said Adam Truitt, dean of students at Lincoln Park Middle School, to a sparsely filled auditorium of sixth graders Monday morning.

March 17, 2020, was the last time Duluth Public Schools’ secondary school students had in-person classes. Monday was the first step in the district’s plan to introduce middle and high school students back into the classroom throughout March. Students in sixth, ninth and 12th grades started a limited hybrid model this week with students split into two groups and attending only two days a week.

The staff was beaming with excitement as parents and buses dropped off students at Lincoln Park Middle School. Some of the sixth graders seemed a little apprehensive at first.

Lincoln Park Principal Brian Kazmierczak was at the front doors talking to students and parents while more staff members were in the back with mascot Westie the Wildcat welcoming students who were dropped off by buses.

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Kazmierczak said the sixth graders were chosen to come back into the building first to help them get acclimated to middle school.

“The one nice thing is that they do know their teachers, even though they haven’t met them in person,” he said.

As a way to help the sixth graders navigate their first days, an eighth grade leadership group was there to welcome them and help out throughout the day.

“I’ve been excited all weekend looking forward to today,” Kazmierczak said. “It’s a little surreal knowing we are back in the building, and we are excited about the next steps, too.”

Lincoln Park Middle School staff member Jill Blazevic, right, opens the door for a group of sixth graders Monday morning. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)
Lincoln Park Middle School staff member Jill Blazevic, right, opens the door for a group of sixth graders Monday morning. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)

Superintendent John Magas welcomed students at Ordean East Middle School and East High School.

"Just seeing their faces, the joy that they had in seeing their friends and meeting with teachers was great," Magas said. "It was probably one of the most positive days I've had here since being superintendent."

Starting March 15, seventh, eighth, 10th and 11th graders will begin hybrid learning two days a week. All secondary school students will then transition into four-day in-person learning March 29. Any families can continue to choose the distance learning option.

A new survey will be sent to parents regarding the learning model they want their children to use starting March 29.

Lincoln Park Middle School staff member Jill Blazevic, right, opens the door for a sixth grader Monday morning. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)
Lincoln Park Middle School staff member Jill Blazevic, right, opens the door for a sixth grader Monday morning. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)

Lincoln Park Middle School eighth graders cheer on sixth graders as they head off to their first class Monday morning.  (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)
Lincoln Park Middle School eighth graders cheer on sixth graders as they head off to their first class Monday morning. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)

Vehicles line up outside Lincoln Park Middle School Monday morning to drop off sixth graders for their first day of hybrid learning. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)
Vehicles line up outside Lincoln Park Middle School Monday morning to drop off sixth graders for their first day of hybrid learning. (Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com)