Schools across Manitoba and in the City of Winnipeg are making final preparations for the first day of classes – a first day which will come with new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CTV News Winnipeg was allowed access to a classroom in the Seven Oaks School Division, to see how one school is preparing for the year to begin.

Larisa Kaiser, a Grade 3 French Immersion Teacher at École Rivière-Rouge, will have 20 students in her classroom.

(CTV News Photo Josh Crabb)

Her classroom has Plexiglas partitions on the desks to give students their own space to allow them to physically distance. Each chair in the classroom also has pillowcases on the back, to give students a place to store their supplies.

“Typically, a lot of supplies would be shared, things like glue sticks and scissors and such but this way every student will have their own,” said Kaiser.

(CTV News Photo Josh Crabb)

Cheryl Gaudet, the principal of the school, said the school has been thinking about ways to keep students safe when they arrive next week. 

"Lots of careful planning has gone into preparing for next week through the COVID-19 guidelines," she said.

Gaudet said the school will split into classroom and staggered recess cohorts, with separate play areas for older and younger students once they’re outside.

“Very excited to see kids return to school,” said Gaudet. “Some of them we have not seen for six months.”

The gym has been turned into a physically-distanced music room.

“The children will be in their classrooms unless they have recess breaks, they will have their physical education outside,” said Gaudet.

As part of the provincial guidelines, masks are mandatory for all staff members, and for students in Grades 4-12. Younger students have the option of wearing masks.

Gaudet said students will be receiving lots of lessons about ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including handwashing, physical distancing, and wearing a mask when physical distancing is not an option.

(CTV News Photo Josh Crabb)

Over at Wolseley School, which will soon turn 100, principal Brian Rogowsky is getting ready to roll out the welcome mat.

Rogowsky placed a sign outside one of the school’s entrances, featuring some COVID-19 reminders.

He had blue ‘W’s (for Wolseley) spray-painted on the sidewalk leading into the entrance of the nursery to grade six school to remind students to stay two metres apart. Inside, arrows guide the way around the school’s wide hallways.

“We’re really excited to have everyone back and I know there’s a lot of anxiety out there for our students because they have seen the inside of the school,” said Rogowsky. 

Rogowsky said teachers will hold classes outdoors for as long as the weather allows, something the school started doing before the pandemic.

Back inside, the hand sanitizer is ready to go and washrooms will be split based on cohorts with only one student allowed in at a time.

In the gym, teachers mark spots on the floor with tape which will allow students to do performing arts and fitness classes while staying two metres apart.

In classrooms, single desks are spaced out at least one metre apart and so are chairs at shared tables.

“Our whole goal is to welcome our students back, having them feel safe, having them have fun and learn and get to see their friends and teachers again,” said Rogowsky.

École Rivière-Rouge said the first two days of school will be set aside as orientation days for students and their parents.

Wolseley School will be doing virtual meetings with parents prior to the first day of classes.