As thousands of students across the province started returning to school today, three new high school principals in Fredericton and Oromocto say they are more than ready to welcome them.
"We may not have all the answers down the road for every day, but we're ready for today," said Stephanie Underhill Tomilson, the new principal of Fredericton High School.
It will be a staggered start for students as different grades begin school on different days this week. It's all part of the COVID-19 operational plans schools have in place to ensure students and staff are safe at this school year.
Underhill Tomilson said the main goal is to connect with the students.
"Let's not forget, they've been out for six months. We have missed our sense of purpose and they have missed being in school."
Jeff Holder, the principal at Leo Hayes High School, said the three high schools have worked together to have consistency in their planning.
"The next four days are really four first days of school, depending on where your letter group falls," Holder said "I think everybody's excited to have kids back in the building after such a long absence."
Oromocto High School principal Kevin Inch said they've been meeting once a week to try to co-ordinate everything from operational plans to staggered starts and the splits of letter groups.
"We've been over it in an effort to try and get some consistency in the Fredericton area. So I think we've achieved that with what what we've laid out so far."
Things will ease
And when it comes to parents' concerns about many of the unknowns as they send their children back to school after six months, Underhill Tomilson said she understands.
"I think my one thing to say to parents is just give us a chance and give us a few days to work it out. It's going to be OK. And once we get our feet under us, and once the kids have a couple of days in the building, things will start to ease."
Holder said they are doing everything to assure parents and students that everything is being done to keep everyone safe and to expect change, but he knows it will be a challenge to get used to those things over the next few weeks.
"I mean, things that they've done in the past, those kind of things have to look different this year."
If anyone does test positive for COVID-19, Underhill Tomilson said Public Health comes in to support the schools.
"We go through the steps with them. If someone does test positive, they are the folks that we're going to be consulting with. We don't make any calls on our own."
When asked what happens, Underhill Tomilson said while a lot what ifs have been discussed, anything is hypothetical until it actually happens.
"We just have to take it case by case. And Public Health will have that plan."
Each school has an isolation room for students who experience two or more symptoms for COVID-19. Parents have to pick up the student within an hour.
All three principals told Information Morning Fredericton they have been busy fielding a lot of questions, phone calls and communication from parents and students leading up to the first week of school.
But they expect it will decline as nervousness and stress eases once students are back in the schools.
In Saint John, Jill Ferguson, principal at Barnhill Memorial School said she has been telling parents things will be done in little steps as students return to school.
"We just want everyone to feel safe."
Ferguson said they are excited to have the students back in the classrooms and hallways of the school again.
Parents happy with return
While dropping off his daughter at Montgomery Street Elementary, Manuel Tenorio said he was excited for her because it was also her first day of school since she moved to Canada.
"I think she will be safe and I think it will get better."
Joseph Tattersall said he had no concerns after dropping off one of his children.
"I think my school's really organized so I'm not too worried about it."
Meanwhile in Moncton, Andy Petersen, a member of Information Morning Moncton's parent panel, said his two children were ready to get back to school to see their friends and have not expressed any real concerns about COVID-19.
Petersen said he's satisfied with what he's read so far in the school's operational plans, but he still has a lot of questions about busing.
He didn't like what he saw when he stopped by the bus stop Tuesday morning. Instead of filling the bus from the back as was indicated in the province's return to school plan, students scattered all over the bus.
"They were wearing masks from what I could see."
Petersen said it won't be until next week, when all students are back in school, that it will be clear how busing is working.
Will ride bikes
"I can't see how it's going to work the way they have it set up."
Petersen said his kids are planning to bike to school as long as they can and can carpool with neighbours on rainy days.
"I expect things are going to change four weeks from now, so I'm making no plans for November."
Overall, he said, his children know things will be different during the school day as they remain in their class bubbles for recess, lunch and out on the playground.