NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Wednesday marked the first day of school for McLean County Unit 5.

At Prarieland Elementary, nearly 500 students filled the halls and classrooms. The lack of masks and COVID-19 mitigations signaled a return to pre-pandemic times.

“This year we are to, really no mitigations, so we are back to a normal routine. We can do the things we have done pre-pandemic which we are super excited about, cause we can truly focus on the learning of the kids and not have to worry about all the mitigations that go with that,” said Scott Peters, principal of Prairieland Elementary.

Peters said this year finally feels back to normal.

“Being able to get back to a normal year is just that, again, a feeling of connecting with the kids, building those relationships,” Peters said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on, and just loving on the kids, and that’s what we’re looking forward to this year.”

Erin Burns’ two children attend Prairieland Elementary. She said said her kindergartner and first grader are looking forward to their first normal school year.

“I know the kids are a very excited to have a little more normalcy. See each other’s faces, get to eat together and share stuff, so they’re really excited “I hope that both of my kids continue to learn, make new friends, be social, and just get to know other people in the school and learn as much as they can and have a great time,” she said.

Peters said there was a back-to-school night Tuesday to reduce any anxiety for the new school year.

“That is a time where everybody can come in, they can meet their teachers, parents get to meet the teachers, kind of get that nervous energy out, put their supplies in their desk, then it’s an absolutely great day.”

The school also held a kindergarten parent orientation on Monday to get first-time parents adjusted.