Students won’t be arriving for their COVID safety sessions until Thursday and Friday. But B.C. teachers are already back in their classrooms, moving desks and arranging the space in preparation for the return to full in-person learning.

“I don’t know how to feel about the beginning of the school year,” said Denise Nembhard, home economics teacher at Dr. Charles Best Secondary School in Coquitlam. “It will be great to see the students, but we’re all navigating something uncharted, completely new.”

Setting up a non-traditional classroom like Nembhard is doing for her foods and textiles students is more challenging.

“In a textiles room if a student is sitting and sewing at their machine, great,” said Nembhard. “The minute they have to use an iron or have to get up and cut, there’s some movement. So how do we structure classes in a way that really minimizes that movement?”

Teachers in typical desk-based classrooms also have questions about how to set the space up safely.

“I’m actually trying to future out how to arrange the desks. We typically try to do a lot of pair work in Spanish, so I’m waiting for some guidance on how to put the kids,” said Charles Best Spanish teacher Sophie Viswanathan.

Teachers have been given Tuesday and Wednesday to get their classrooms ready.

“The two days was really designed to make any modifications that are required, improvements, the opportunity to solicit some good ideas from classrooms, teachers and support staff," said Education Minister Rob Fleming.

Nembhard helped write the COVID safety protocols for all home economics teachers across B.C., but even she doesn’t know how they will work until students arrive and in-person learning starts on Monday.

“Once the students get in and we all start talking about what is this gonna look like, how can we as a class figure out how to do this safely,” said Nembhard. “It will be a great learning experience for me, and a great learning experience for the students.”

Viswanathan is optimistic teachers and students can figure it out.

“I’m a positive thinker, and I feel like people have been doing what’s best for all of this whole pandemic so I trust the authorities and I’m looking forward,” she said. “I’m actually excited to be back at school and looking forward to seeing the kids again.”