Few tears as northeastern Ontario elementary students return to school
SUDBURY -- It was an emotional day in front of Westmount Avenue Public School.
While there were some tears shed by students, others didn't even blink as they said "goodbye" to their loved ones and were once again reunited with their school chums.
Students were greeted by a single teacher wearing a face shield at the end of the school driveway, who was careful to keep her distance.
Instead of the normal lining up outside the building, everyone was told to go inside and to head directly to their classrooms while caregivers parted ways outside.
"Oh my gosh! It was just wonderful. I'm going to tear up," said Debbie Soulliere, whose grandson Ryan was starting Grade 1. "It was good. He was a little nervous, a little anxious, some of his friends have moved on to different schools, but he's coping really well because his parents are really good around all of this."
Soulliere said her grandson was a little worried that he might have lost some "smart stuff."
"I said 'no, we're all in the same boat bud. They're going to start all over. You're going to make new friends and today's a new day,'" she said.
"It's (COVID-19) always a concern. This is new to all of us and there's no finger-pointing. We just have to do the best that we can with what we have and trust that we are not putting our children in harm's way because we trust these teachers and time will tell," said Soulliere. "It's new for everybody. This is his third year in the school and we trust these teachers. If we felt that we couldn't, he wouldn't be here."
Darryl Lalonde and Crystal Smagac were enjoying their coffees outside the school having just dropped their daughter off for her first day of senior kindergarten.
"It was combined, it really wasn't that tough," said Lalonde. "We have some family medical stuff going on too, but you know, they need their education and they need to be going to school. The socialization with COVID hasn't been too great for kids and I'm a firm believer that she needs to be in school, doing her learning here."
"I loved it. I thought the safety precautions they have going in the school are fantastic, there are masks and they're all welcoming. They don't make it seem as COVID's going on to scare the little kids. Our daughter, she just started this school and she went right in no problem," said Smagac.
They said they've had zero to little difficulty getting her to physically distance herself from others and will have a talk with her at the end of the day to see how it went.
It wasn't all smiles or easy-going for parents today in Greater Sudbury though, as some learned their school bus routes had been cancelled on Tuesday morning.
Twenty-five routes have now been cancelled in since Monday with what the Sudbury Student Services Consortium say is a lack of drivers.
School bus route cancellations have also been reported in other northeastern Ontario communities including Garden River First Nation and Timmins.
Outside Holy Cross Catholic School in Sault Ste. Marie, it was business as usual as students arrived for a staggered start for the first day of class.
"Well, I think there are some obvious things to be concerned about, but I have full confidence in our school board and our teachers. So no, I'm really happy for our kids," said Stephanie Emmi, a mother of one of the Sault Ste. Marie students.
Another mother, Jessica Culligan echoed her faith in the school system.
"Pretty nervous and anxious, but as Steph said there, I have confidence in the school system in Canada and just fortunate enough to be in a country where we hopefully have some good protocols and safety in the schools implemented," said Culligan.
Public Health Sudbury and Districts issued a statement last week saying it's working with its directors of education to provide the safest school environment possible for all children living in the region.
Several school boards have also received funding to hire additional teachers as a result of COVID-19 and pandemic plans.