As tens of thousands of Edmonton Catholic students returned to schools Wednesday morning, one principal suggested there was as much excitement as there is normally on the first day – and a little more anxiety.

A staggered start time is one of the health measures the school division is implementing.

So on Wednesday at Mother Mary Margaret Catholic High School in southwest Edmonton, Grade 10 students began arriving at 8:15 a.m., and Grade 11 and 12s at 9 a.m.

“A little bit of a rite of passage coming in to high schools is that first day of Grade 10. There’s a little bit of nervousness, but I think that comes compounded not just with the situation we’re in, but I think that comes compounded with the fact that they’re entering high school,” explained Principal Dean Rootsaert.

Teachers, he added, were feeling no different.

Roughly 25 per cent of the division’s students elected to return to school online this quarter.

The majority back in school buildings are returning to new rules: masks in Grade 4 and up in shared areas, distanced desks, increased sanitation.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called it inevitable on Tuesday that some Alberta schools would be affected by COVID-19.

Edmonton Catholic Schools does not disagree.

“When that happens, of course, we don’t know. But we are working very closely with Alberta Health Services, and when that happens of course, we will be working with them on how to negotiate that, how to inform parents, and to make sure that we take every step we can,” spokesperson Lori Nagy told CTV News Edmonton.

Mother Mary Margaret’s principal added: “Of course there probably will be a case. I hope not. But all the safety measures are put in place and our kids are going to be as safe as we could possibly have them.”

The province revealed plans for $260 million in federal funding for school re-entry Wednesday morning. 

Edmonton Catholic Schools' portion is $15.6 million. 

"This funding will support student learning by hiring a significant number of additional staff for classroom and online learning and will also assist with the ongoing COVID-related costs," board chair Sandra Palazzo said. 

"Every decision with the funding announced today will be made with student and staff safety as our priority."

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Nahreman Issa