After a six month hiatus, students, teachers and administrators found themselves back inside the halls of P.E.I. schools this week.
Schools shut down to in-person learning in March, with most students never returning to the buildings, except maybe to clean out their lockers. Bloomfield Elementary principal Andrew Stewart says the first week went smoother than many may have expected.
"Kids are really resilient and really adaptable, and we've watched them this week," he said.
"We're amazed right from the first day that, you know, it almost seems normal to them. They seem to have caught on so quickly."
For Gulf Shore Consolidated principal Maria Lavoie, the week also served as an opportunity to test out the new procedures and protocols that have been prepared since it was announced students would be back in the classroom come September.
"Kids did get sick this week. We did have to have them walk out of a classroom, sanitize it and remove all the students until that process was done," she said.
"The first time that happened, we were kind of a little bit nervous because it was like a fire drill wondering, 'OK, who goes where?'"
The first few days were mostly filled with teaching students about the new COVID-19 protocols, like when to wear their masks and how to travel around the school.
Lavoie said the transition seems to have taken place rather quickly, and teachers and students seem to already be in the habit of hand sanitizing and wearing masks.
"These schools aren't meant to be quiet places. There was 178 days between March 13 and September 8," she said.
"To have the halls alive again and have that chatter and energy in the building was fantastic. That's how schools are supposed to be."
Back into a routine
Charlotte MacLaine, a Grade 9 student at Gulf Shore Consolidated, said it's exciting to get back into a routine and be productive.
"It was kind of weird to even just go back to what normal school would have been, but I think now it's been a few days, I think I'm used to the new routine and it's going well," she said.
"I like it a lot better than online school because I get to see my friends and I actually — it's a lot easier to ask questions to my teacher."
As for filling the learning gaps created with the shift to home learning, Lavoie said this is a part of the classroom — COVID or not.
"Students are always at different places in a classroom, and that's not necessarily different in a classroom. There would be a huge range of abilities and that's not any different," she said.
"We're adjusting and it's nice to see the learning happening again in classrooms."
Both principals said they have had to make adjustments as the week progressed, particularly around drop-offs and pickups, as well as how the cohorts move around the playgrounds, but it's all part of the new normal.
"I think we're taking it one day at a time, and I think, you know, throughout COVID, and just even our regular lives, that's sort of what we have to do," Stewart said.
"That doesn't mean that we're not preparing for different scenarios."
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