Chinese youngsters in the global coronavirus epicenter of Wuhan filed back to class on Wednesday, wearing masks and walking in single file past thermal scanners. Senior school students in 121 institutions were back in front of chalk boards and digital displays for the first time since their city — the ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic — shut down in January.
"School is finally reopening!" posted one user of Weibo. "This is the first time that I'm so happy to go back to school."
High school senior students study in a classroom in Wuhan
Teenagers sat at individual desks spaced a 3.3 feet apart, seeing their teachers in the flesh after months of distance learning.
Wednesday's back-to-school was the latest step in a gradual normalizing of life in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
The city, where the coronavirus appeared late last year before spreading around the world, was locked down for 76 days and only reopened last month.
High school senior students study with plastic partitions in a classroom in Wuhan
Only the province's oldest students were present on Wednesday — vocational students and seniors who are due to take the make-or-break university entrance exams.
Return dates have generally not been confirmed for junior and middle school students, although some localities have allowed their return as well.
Officials in Wuhan say students and staff must all have had virus tests before going back to school, and campuses have been disinfected and cleaned.
Students arrive at a high school in Wuhan
In preparation for reopening, some schools spaced out their desks and organized smaller class sizes, according to local media.
Thermal scanners greeted everyone walking through school gates, and anyone with a high temperature was not allowed in.
State-run China Daily said some places arranged staggered arrival times for teachers and students.
High school senior students walk past a thermal scanner at a school in Wuhan
Armed police officers were seen standing guard at the entrance of Wuhan No.17 Middle School, with officers also pictured outside other schools around the province.
Elsewhere in China, schools that have been closed or online-only since January began gradually reopening last month, with Beijing and Shanghai letting some students return last week.