What a difference a year has made.

Last year, Oklahoma City Public Schools began a new era with its first day of school. A major consolidation plan, called Pathway to Greatness, had closed 15 schools and reconfigured 17 over summer 2019.

But, 2020’s first day of school was even more of a novelty, as 32,000 Oklahoma City students logged in to their online classrooms. The district started the 2020-21 school year on Monday. Nine weeks of virtual learning lay ahead.

“This was my 35th first day of school,” Superintendent Sean McDaniel said in a virtual news conference Monday afternoon. “I’ll tell you, this is going to be forever memorable. A lot of work went into the launch today.”

Teachers stood in front of empty classrooms, talking with students over video calls. Students attended classes from their kitchen tables and living room couches, with a Google Chromebook or Apple iPad as the gateway to their education.

For Lynne Zahn, principal of Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, last year’s first day of school feels like “a million years ago.”

“Today for all of our teachers is like the first year that they ever taught school, whether this really is their first day of being a teacher or if they’ve taught 30 years,” Zahn said. “It’s a whole new way of delivering instruction.”

Yet, some parts of the first day never change. School staff at Belle Isle felt the same buzz of excitement to see their students again. Classes began with familiar “first-day glitches.”

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