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MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Middle and high school students in Modesto got to head back on campus Monday for the first time since the pandemic sent them home.

For some freshmen, such as Alysson Garcia, it’s their first time ever stepping foot on campus.

“Very nervous, I don’t want to get lost,” Garcia, a James C. Enochs High ninth grader, told FOX40.

For others, walking back into school brought a sense of relief, as distance learning has been a challenge for many of these kids.

“It’s been really hard because I easily get distracted,” explained tenth grader Julian Alvarez.

They will still be learning online three days a week under the district’s hybrid learning model, but many said they’re looking forward to the accountability learning in person will bring.

“I’m finally going to have somebody to be behind me and keep tabs on me, make sure I’m doing my work so I can’t be lazy,” Garcia said.

Students said it’s worth wearing masks and keeping a distance to see friends and get out of the house again.

But the Modesto City School District is taking safety a step further. Hours before the first period started Monday, students lined up outside to get tested for COVID-19.

“So, today, we’re starting across all campuses in the school district with testing of the student-athletes,” explained Chris Hutchinson, head of sales with 1health, who is providing the tests.

All students who want to play school sports are required to take a saliva test every Monday for the foreseeable future. Students get their results digitally within 24 hours.

“The saliva is not invasive. It’s actually a little more accurate as well,” Hutchinson said.

And soon, he added, all students in this district could be regularly tested, too.

“We’re ready for all 45,000 students. We have about five labs in this geographic area alone, as well as across the country,” Hutchinson said.

Students told FOX40 they’re happy to finally see sports returning, and they would be willing to take a saliva test every week as long as it means they get to keep coming to school safely.

“I think it’s definitely worth it because I think the school needs sports,” Alvarez said. “I would really like to go and just be with my friends and see my friends play.”

Families in the Modesto City School District have the option to keep their children on a full-distance learning plan if they do not feel comfortable sending them back on campus.

Right now, grades 7 through 12 are learning in-person two days a week, with grades pre-K through sixth on-campus four days a week.