Excitement, nervousness for N.L. K-12 students heading back to school Tuesday

·4 min read
Most children in Newfoundland and Labrador have been learning online since the end of December. (Mike Moore/CBC - image credit)
Most children in Newfoundland and Labrador have been learning online since the end of December. (Mike Moore/CBC - image credit)
Mike Moore/CBC
Mike Moore/CBC

After nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, students across Newfoundland and Labrador are being asked to adapt once again — this time in a move back to in-person learning while the Omicron variant continues to spread.

Students told CBC News they're excited to go back to in-class learning and see their friends and teachers, though some questioned the timing of the return to school.

Tobias Cutting, a Grade 12 student at Exploits Valley High in Grand Falls-Windsor, said he was surprised by the announcement given the high number of COVID-19 cases, but he said he's ready to go back.

"I feel like we can adapt and … relearn to survive and in a pretty crowded school where we know infections are going to happen," he said.

Tobias said pivoting between in-person and online learning has made it difficult to get involved in school, though he commended teachers for their approach to online classes this year.

"We're not missing things anymore. The gaps in the learning that were there before, I feel, are really being filled a lot better."

While Tobias is cautiously optimistic, he said he's worried students may end up back in online classes soon.

Heidi Pike, a Grade 12 student at Glovertown Academy, questioned the timing of the announcement.

"I think it's good for us to go back to school, but in my opinion, I think it's just kind of rushed," Heidi said. "We don't have a lot of information."

Heidi pointed to the rapid testing, a strategy she thinks will help ensure safety, but was not fully explained to families.

The province has distributed hundreds of thousands of rapid tests to students, teachers and staff in preparation for reopening. Students, teachers and staff are supposed to take two tests 72 hours before returning to school Tuesday.

Submitted by Heidi Pike
Submitted by Heidi Pike

"In all reality, not everyone's going to do them," Heidi said. "You don't have to send any kind of proof that you do. [I have] a little bit of nervousness there that people could still be positive when they come to school."

She said she's excited to see her teachers and friends but worries about the potential for COVID-19 to spread.

"We spent a lot of time in the same room, and it's a small classroom where there's like 25 of us. So we're all pretty close; we're all still wearing masks, but there's not six feet between desks."

Ready to go back

Hala Farah, a student in Grade 6 at Eastpoint Elementary in St. John's, said she's apprehensive but mostly excited about returning to school. She said it's easier to learn and pay attention while in a physical school environment.

"It's been really hard to understand what you're supposed to learn because you always have a really small amount of time to get everything explained and stuff," she said.

Submitted by Hala Farah
Submitted by Hala Farah

While she's nervous about the potential for COVID-19 to spread, Hala said the rapid tests have assuaged those fears — though she isn't excited about taking one herself.

"I've never really taken a COVID test before, but the principal said that they won't really hurt or give you any pain," Hala explained. "She said it was for our safety.",

Hala said she expects the mood to be different when she returns to school, and she believes students will be more careful about following the rules.

"I think my school's doing a pretty good job staying safe."

Dru Carew, a Grade 3 student at Peacock Primary in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said he's happy to go back to school and see his friends and his teachers. While he didn't mind online classes, he's ready to be back in person — though he isn't thrilled about taking a rapid test.

"I am not excited, but I will do it," he said.

Submitted by Jason Carew
Submitted by Jason Carew

Dru said he isn't bothered by wearing masks, though he doesn't like physical distancing.

"I wish I could be close to my friends."

For Dru, though, the worst part about going back to school is not related to COVID-19.

"The reason that we don't want to be in school is probably the homework," he said. "Yeah, probably homework."

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