FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Monday marks the first day back in the classroom for students of the Pee Dee’s largest school district, Florence One Schools.

There were a lot of smiling teachers, students and administrators filing into Greenwood Elementary first thing Monday morning. A lot of preparation went into making sure everything was ready for the big day.

North Vista Elementary School kindergarten teacher Harlana Bennett said she was making sure everything was perfect in her classroom after not having students in it for more than a year.

“It’s taken about two weeks to get the furniture back in place and get all the different things, our decorations up,” she said the week before classes began. “It’s just so exciting. It’s just a wonderful feeling of being able to know that kids are coming back.”

Williams Middle School math teacher Laura McFadden said she’s ready to put what she learned last year to use as she prepared for Monday.

“One thing I can say is when adversity comes your way, I am able to adapt,” she said. “My whole thing is it takes a village. So I do whatever it takes to help my students be successful.”

Florence One Schools is working to make sure any gaps students have after last year are filled.

“We’re definitely going to focus on accelerating, learning through rigorous instruction,” Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education at F1S Gregory Hall said. “Ensuring we have targeted interventions to meet those needs. Looking at those individual specific needs, which we anticipate are going to be very varied across the entire district.”

Williams Middle School principal Dr. Kendra Green agreed it’s important to see where students are at following a strange school year.

“See where our students are and meet them where they are,” Dr. Green said.

The State Department of Education said the students who were already behind had the hardest time during COVID.

“Generally we’re seeing three months, seems to be about that much learning lag,” department spokesperson Ryan Brown said. “But that’s particularly prevalent among the lower grades and particular english language arts and math.”

Florence One Schools administrators say they don’t want to go back to normal. Instead, they want to move foward.

“Our new normal can not be what we’ve known in education before,” Gergory Hall said. “It has to be much greater and much better.”

The district encourages mask wearing, hand washing and staying home when sick in response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.