It’s back to school for teachers and other educational staff throughout the London region.

Educators have started training for the new COVID-19 protocols that are now in place throughout the school system.

“It was kind of surreal walking into the room where we’re having our staff meeting and seeing everyone for the first time since March,” said Grade 7/8 teacher Lindsay Rycroft. “It was a little overwhelming.”

Rycroft was among 49 educators at Louise Arbour French Immersion Public School in north London Tuesday taking part in a professional development day geared strictly to pandemic protocol training.

The school has 58 staff members in total, but some are taking the training remotely.

Away from school since the beginning of March, Rycroft is hoping the transition into the new education reality will be seamless for both teachers and students. She said she’ll miss getting her students together into groups early in the year, as she usually does.

“Desks are all individual little islands, so that’s going to be really different. And I find the first week I often do group activities like team building and those types of things. We’re not really going to have the opportunity for kids to work in groups right now but so it has taken a little big of a different approach this year.”

From the moment anyone steps onto the school property things look and feel a lot different - from spacing markers on the ground encouraging social distancing, to signage in the windows reminding of COVID-19 protocols.

Inside the school there are plexi-glass barriers at the office, directional markers on the floor, and PPE for staff.

School principal Lisa Cianci said they’re prepared, even if plans change from one day to the next - and they very well could. “I think today is playing a big key in relieving a lot of that apprehension because they know and they’re hearing what we’re going to be doing to keep them safe,” she said.

“I think we’re all living in a bit of a different world, so even going to the grocery store causes some apprehension. But I think coming back here there’s a normalcy and people are happy to see each other and they want to be back with their students.”

Staggered re-entry for students begins in a couple of weeks with the first co-horts set to return September 14.