WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) — Around 80,000 students walked through the doors of several Pasco County Schools to return to class Tuesday.

Masks are optional at this time, but school leaders strongly recommend both students and staff wear them.

The new COVID-19 protocols will make things different for students this year, but school leaders say the rules are not as restrictive as they were last year.

Extra sanitizing procedures remain in place for desks, water fountains and other commonly-touched surfaces.

In addition to wearing face coverings, staff and students are encouraged to practice social distancing whenever possible.

Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning said he is asking parents to stay patient.

“I want parents to understand that we have the same goal in mind. We want our kids safe, we want our kids back in a great environment and we want them before a great teacher,” he said.

School leaders also said they are prepared to tackle on the changes the pandemic has brought them., whether it is the extra cleaning or the challenges with transportation.

More that 37,000 students in Pasco County ride the bus to and from school each day.

This school year, there is a bus driver shortage so Browning says there may be some students arriving at school or home, later than usual.

“Last number I heard we were down about 100, a little over 100 drivers and that will have huge impacts on us,” he said.

All visitors, student employees will have to do self-screening before each school day. More information on the rules can be found on the school district’s website.