A school bag and a lunch bag are seen in the school yard at the Bancroft Elementary School as students go back to school in Montreal, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

It's back to school for some students across the region who packed their lunches, face masks and hand sanitizer after nearly six months spent at home.

The province closed all schools on March 13 as the children went on March Break, and cases of COVID-19 began to climb.

Nearly all school boards across the region are bringing students gradually to avoid mass crowding.

In Simcoe County, public schools are welcoming students back according to surname, while Catholic schools are using a grading system.

Both boards reported that nearly 80 to 90 per cent of its student body would return to the classroom while the remainder chose to continue online learning.

Along with the staggered start, several other health and safety protocols are in place, including hand sanitizing stations and student cohorts to help prevent spreading the virus.

Premier Doug Ford's government has been under increasing pressure over its back-to-school plan, which has undergone several changes leading up to this week.

Ontario's education minister has said the government would move quickly to address outbreaks in schools. Ford said he wouldn't hesitate to shut down schools if there is a second wave of COVID-19, and cases begin to surge. "I won't hesitate if we have a second wave and it starts blowing up, to close the schools. Whatever it takes to protect the kids."