At districts across the county, between 70 percent and 90 percent of students have opted out of virtual learning.
Some devices the districts have paid for won't arrive for months because of heavy demand in the pandemic.
Masks, one-way hallways and morning symptom checks are part of the new rules at Santa Fe High School. The school is one of the first in the county to return to class, with other districts soon to follow.
While some parents spent the summer making a tough choice about whether or not to send their students to school in person or virtually, others didn't have a choice.
Vickie Rabino spends her days delivering internet hotspots and tutoring students struggling with online learning.
Because a significant number of students live in remote, rural areas with either no or too-weak internet connectivity, among other issues that would make learning remotely unfeasible, Santa Fe ISD is offering learning labs on each of its campuses.
Monday was the first day of school for the Hitchcock Independent School District, and teachers and students spent the day easing into the current normal.
Bus drivers might see their jobs change slightly during the beginning of the year, while custodial staff members are ramping up for added cleaning duties.
Hundreds of students have started to return to Texas A&M University at Galveston dorms ahead of the new school year. There are new rules in place to try to protect the campus against the spread of the coronavirus.
The scenario is one that could be repeated in Galveston and other local school districts in coming weeks, as teachers and staff begin reporting back to school for the first time since campuses were closed by the coronavirus pandemic in March.
Health district guidelines issued late Friday raised questions about the details, administrators said.
The school district's 40,000 or so students are divided among the northern reaches of Galveston County and southern Harris County.
School starts online Aug. 24 and in-person learning will begin Sept. 21, if all goes according to plan, but high school students will only be on campus 40 percent of the time, officials said.
Planning around an unpredictable pandemic is tricky and costly as educators worry about everything from remote-learning resources to school-funding formulas.
The Galveston College Foundation's Universal Access Community Scholarship Endowment and Non-Tuition Educational Expenses Fund programs were the recipients of a $40,000 donation from The John P. McGovern Foundation.