Unlike their high school counterparts, New Brunswick students in Grades K-8 will be going to school every day in classroom groupings or bubbles -- the size of which will depend on the grade.
In Grades K-2, group size will be as low as 15 students per class. For Grades 3-5 it will 22 students per class and Grades 6-8 will remain normal, George Daley, the deputy minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, said during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Daley said the grouping or bubble method was used earlier on the pandemic with early learning centres and "to date they have proved to be successful."
"Once they're inside in their classroom bubble, life can be pretty well what the children would remember from last school year," said Bonnie Heirlihy, the principal at Fairvale Elementary School in Rothesay, N.B. "No need for social distances, children can work, learn and play together."
There will be some noticeable changes, though.
Daley said there will be some staggered starts and breaks to ensure spacing among groups is protected. Teachers and staff will also be asking students to minimize physical contact and shared items.
"They will be able to share supplies, but it is recommended they bring their own," Daley said. "If any supplies are shared, they should be cleaned at the end of the day."
There will be no interaction with other groupings and students are expected to bring two clean community masks to school every day, unless they've been advised by a medical professional to not wear a mask.
Additionally, masks are not meant to replace physical distancing or good hygiene -- they are a supplement to those methods.
"Physical distancing is not expected in the classroom, but it is in common areas," Daley said.
There's a familiar setup inside the classroom -- but outside is a different story -- and there are signs of the times throughout the school.
"With their masks on, as soon as they enter the building in their entrance they sanitize their hands and then they proceed to their classroom, and upon entering their classroom they sanitize again," Heirlihy said.
The department is requiring that any equipment that is used by multiple groupings, such as physical education equipment or computers, must be cleaned after each use.
Daley also revealed some details about music education, which will happen with some precaution, adding that it was one of most complex issues the department has had to deal with.
There will be sharing of musical instruments, but they will have to be cleaned and disinfected after each use and there will be extra precautions for wind instruments.
As much as possible, music education will take place outdoors and during any singing activities, students will be asked to sing "softly," or maintain the proper physical distance, Daley said.
Teachers in New Brunswick are all preparing for an unprecedented school year while navigating a pandemic and it will soon be time to put those plans into action.
"It's going to be new, and it's going to be a challenge for everyone, and they really need the parents and public support as they learn and move through all of these new things together," said Rick Cuming of the New Brunswick Teachers' Association.
Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs says he knows parents and teachers are worried, but he says it's been a learning experience for everyone.
"So, I would ask people to be patient, not make this an emotional issue, but let's just work through this COVID-19 start up in schools," Higgs said.
Parents with questions about the Return to School plan can email email@example.com. For questions about the laptop subsidy program, parents can call 1-833-901-1963 or email EECDRTS-EDPERAE@gnb.ca.