PHOENIX - Many students are heading back to the classroom across Arizona this week as the COVID-19 impact on the state eases up, but some schools have been holding in-person learning since the summer of 2020, including Great Hearts Academy.
When you walk in Veritas Prep Academy and Archway Veritas, a part of Great Hearts Academy, all students, teachers and staff are wearing masks and reminders to social distance are posted on the walls.
The difference between Great Hearts and other schools is that they've been practicing these protocols in person since the summer.
"We were able to keep down COVID numbers and we didn’t have a spread on the campus and that allowed us to be here," explained Heather Washburn, headmaster of the academy.
On top of those safety measures, temperatures are taken every day, students wipe down the desks before and after every period, they have staggered release times and students have to socialize in their groups.
Some of these new protocols took some getting used to for senior Will Jakubczyk.
"The masks at the start were a little difficult because we play sports. It is hot, we are sweating, but throughout time, we were able to work through," he said, but adds it's become a routine that's worth the time and effort to be physically in class with his teachers and classmates.
The school says the protocols have worked to prevent the virus from spreading on campus.
"We have had cases but they have been external exposures. We have only had two cases that occurred on campus that we can trace back to campus," Washburn said.
Great Hearts also offers an online option, but 80% of students have opted for in-person learning.
More information on the academy can be found here.