Vancouver Island students return for another pandemic school year

Tuesday marked the start of a new school year and just like last year we’re still in a global pandemic.

At Campus View Elementary School in Saanich, B.C., Grade 5 student Isla Reece couldn’t be happier to be heading back to class.

“I feel great,” said Isla. “Also I’m really looking forward to seeing my best friend.”

With COVID-19 still a factor, Isla’s mom is trying to be optimistic that this year will be as safe as last year.

“We lucked out,” said Salina Reece. “I know some schools have had some outbreaks but we did not, so fingers crossed for another year of that.”

The principal at the school is confident that enough measures are in place to keep everyone safe.

“There’s still protocols in the school about arrows and patterns of behaviour,” said principal Dwayne Doyle. “Lots of hand washing, masks protocols.”

Over on the West Shore, Belmont High School was welcoming Grade 9 students on Tuesday morning.

“I’m excited to start a real school year again,” said Emma Bayne. “Like a normal school year.”

Grades 10 through 12 will get their start on Wednesday.

Last year, high school students saw the biggest disruption in how they attended school.

“We would have half our students in the morning so every class full with half the population,” said Ryan Dube, vice-principal at Belmont High School. “Then at lunchtime everyone would head home and a new crew would come in and we’d have the second half.”

This year, high school students will be back to full-time learning. No cohorts, no spilt shifts.

Some things are still the same. Sanitization stations are still set up throughout the school. Directional arrows will continue to try to control the flow of traffic and masks are a must.

“We want everyone wearing masks the entire year on school property, inside or outside,” said Alana Brown, a Grade 12 student leader.

“I’m optimistic by nature and so I certainly hope by me saying this, I’m not jinxing it but I hope that we end this school year almost back to normal,” said Ravi Parmar, chair of the Sooke School District board.

Back at Campus View Elementary, everyone seems to be looking forward to what this new school year will bring.

“I’m looking forward to getting to watch them do their sports again,” said one mother of two children who attend the school.

“That will be really cool,” said her son. “That will be a highlight of my day.”