A family heading into Walmart for back to school shopping. (Dave Charbonneau / CTV News Ottawa)

The annual ritual of back-to-school shopping is a little different in 2020.

While parents and kids were out stocking up on all the new clothes and supplies they are going to need for the school year, they were also shopping for COVID-19 supplies.

For many kids, there's nothing more exciting in September than shopping for back to school supplies with their parents.

Christina Allen was out with her daughter on Saturday.

“She’s going into Grade 1, so it's all very new. Like, getting school supplies, pencil case and all that stuff. It’s exciting and, of course, when we were kids it was always exciting.” 

But, for some kids, back to school means back to schoolwork and they aren’t excited at all.

“Not really, because I have to do math and homework,” said Caleb Burnett. 

Most families out shopping on Saturday were getting the usual items.

“I think we’re going to buy some pencils and some markers, and maybe a pair of shoes,” said Mireille Moquin.

“We are buying books; we are buying a water bottle. We have a lot of lists from the school,” said another mom.

“We’re going to go in and buy a whole bunch of clothes and books and markers and pencils and all that stuff,” said one dad.

But not only were families shopping for supplies to help kids learn, they also needed a new item this year, to keep them safe: masks. 

“Well, we’re definitely shopping for different supplies,” Said Jessica Burnett, who is out shopping with her daughter. “We just went shopping for masks.”

Masks are mandatory in Ottawa schools for all students in Grade 4 and up and highly recommended for students in younger grades. Additionally, schools are asking students not to share their school supplies with their friends this year, to cut down on possible points of transmission of COVID-19.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, for instance, said the most important items for students heading back to class are:

  • A Backpack and lunch;
  • A Mask;
  • A Refillable Water Bottle; and
  • Layers of clothing

"If a student brings supplies, they should be labelled and stored in a pencil case (or a resealable plastic bag) for personal use," the OCDSB said in a letter to parents on Friday. "Students will be keeping all supplies at their desk. If you choose to send supplies, keep it to a minimum and replenish throughout the year."

Also new this year is remote learning. A significant number of students will be learning from home in the fall, and they need new equipment too.

One boy was lucky enough to get a brand new laptop.

“The laptop he had before was not very efficient, so I decided to buy a new one,” his father said.

Some students in Ottawa had their first classes on Thursday and Friday, while others will begin gradually returning after Labour Day.