Hamilton County students return to the classroom on the first day of school

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Orchard Knob Middle School Assistant Principal Michael Calloway squirts sanitizer onto students hands as they arrive for the first day of school. Orchard Knob Middle School started the 2021-2022 school year under a Hamilton County Schools system wide mask mandate on August 9, 2021, because of the surge in the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
photo Staff photo by Troy Stolt / A tardy student walks up to his classroom on the first day of school at Soddy Daisy high school on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.

By 7:15 a.m. Thursday, most students at Soddy-Daisy High School had made their way upstairs to start their first block classes as the sun shone brightly, giving one of the second-floor hallways an orange glow.

Some students arrived late, filing in from the student drop-off line, while others sat in clusters at circular tables in the common area - chatting, eating breakfast and waiting on schedule changes.

Across the region at Orchard Knob Middle School, the eighth-grade hall that was bustling with students just moments earlier was empty and quiet.