Students arrive at a Kingston school for the first day of classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kimberley Johnson/CTV News Ottawa)

Kingston-area students began to return to school for the first time since COVID-19 shut down all schools in March.

The Limestone District School Board and the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board are welcoming students back on a staggered basis over the next week. 

Student’s attending classes at Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School could be seen wearing masks and staying physically distant as they made their return to schools on buses and on foot Thursday morning.

At both boards, all students are required to wear face masks while in the schools.

Luke is heading into Grade 8, wearing a mask and holding hand sanitizer, he says he is excited to return.

"I missed most of my friends and I’m excited to see them," Luke explains. "Obviously with the social distances we’re going to have to practice that within the school but it’s just good to see them."

His mother Caroline says she felt it was important for her son to go back to school in-class for some "sense of normalcy" this fall, but it still felt "strange."

"Normally you have the anticipation of returning to school, but we knew that it wouldn’t be gathering in crowds... there would be a lot of restrictions on what was permissible," she explains. "So just making sure that our child knew all the rules and internalized them that was important."

Parents Patty and Jerry, say their daughters Ali and Avery are going into senior Kindergarten and Grade 3.

Jerry says the family is feeling "optimistic" about the year, but there are also some nerves and that the parents focused on teaching their young girls what to expect in the lead up to their first day.

"Everything is different really," he says. "From having an idea of what they might be facing, to what lunch is going to look like, even picture day. But, we know our teachers and some of our friends in the class so we’re just going to go and see and take it day by day."

Kingston Police are also asking drivers to pay extra attention with more children on sidewalks and school buses returning to the roads. They say drivers should give themselves extra commute time, and should stop for school busses with their lights flashing as those who don't risk a first-time fine between $400 and $2,000, as well as six demerit points.