PORTLAND, Ore. — Students are back in the classroom and ready for the new school year at schools across the Portland metro area.
"I'm pretty excited," said Emma Larson, a sixth grader at Highland Park Middle School.
"Yeah, I'm pretty excited to be back," Ellery Paldi, also a sixth grader at the same middle school.
After a nearly two-year hiatus from in-person learning during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers are left playing catch-up with students' education.
"There is COVID learning loss — that's a real thing," said Highland Park Middle School principal Lori Krumm. "But we are prepared to assess, to make a plan for that, and chip away at that over the next year."
Krumm told KGW that teachers are putting away hard expectations for every student in terms of their education standards in favor of setting personal expectations for every student.
Many students said that online schooling was a bit more difficult than they anticipated.
"It was hard," Paldi said.
"Yeah, it was way harder to learn online," Larson said. "It was difficult. Yeah, the assignments were harder because we didn't get that many instructions."
Regardless, schools are seeing a rise in enrollment this year, especially for kindergartners. Portland Public Schools welcomed more than 2,700 kindergarten students to class on Tuesday.
"Our enrollment has grown here at Maplewood this year," said Amy Kohnstamm, who serves on the Education Board for Portland Public Schools. "So, we have higher enrollment, especially in kindergarten. Which is interesting because with the pandemic, enrollment figures declined, and we weren't really quite sure how many students to expect."
With enrollment on the rise after the pandemic, Maplewood's assistant superintendent Dr. Ester Omogbenhin is hoping young students find their passion for school.
"We want them to fall in love with learning," Omogbenhin said. "We want them to fall in love with the school and we want them to fall in love with continuing to think about how we can build community."
This is not to say it isn't stressful for first-time parents dropping off their children, but parents said it's heartwarming seeing their young one walk into school with confidence for the very first time.
"A first-time parent of a kindergartner is nerve-racking but exciting," said Isis, herself a parent of a kindergartner. "They are finally on their own. They are hitting that stage where they are being independent and you're starting to notice they don't really need you for anything anymore. You know?"