The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Oakland, Calif., logo. (Photo courtesy Oakland Unified School District)

Tens of thousands of children returned to school Monday for the first day of the 2023-24 school year in the Oakland Unified School District, a spokesperson for the school district said.

Children have big smiles and are enjoying friends that they haven’t seen in a while, along with new playgrounds, spokesman John Sasaki said Monday morning.

The new playgrounds, like the one unveiled Saturday at Hoover Elementary School, were made possible through partnerships with groups like Eat. Learn. Play., a foundation started by Stephen and Ayesha Curry that helps Oakland children.

School district officials are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to linger. Sasaki said schools are following health recommendations and anyone who becomes infected should stay home for their health and others.

The school district is still handing out COVID-19 home testing kits and hopes students and parents will take precautions.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.