The snow wasn’t enough to rain on the parade of staff and students looking forward to the return to in-person learning on Monday.
Students in London, as well as the rest of Ontario, were allowed to sign out of virtual classrooms as the province began its latest round of reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The day was accompanied by a massive snowfall covering much of southwestern Ontario that prompted a number of bus cancellations throughout the London region.
At Riverside Public School in west London, dozens of families could be still seen still making the winter trek to class.
Principal Kristin Lynds says the number of students who showed up, despite the weather, speaks to how much the school community was looking forward to getting back.
“The energy and excitement is definitely felt in the hallways this morning, along with, of course, the fresh snow falling,” Lynds said.
“Living in London, Ontario, we know these snow storms come … we’ve been out early preparing and getting things plowed.”
Grade 2 teacher Marcy Dilamarter saw the return as a celebration and felt as if Mother Nature was marking the occasion with a blast of snow for the little ones.
“Students love the snow very much. There’s always that added level of excitement for them,” Dilamarter said.
For Dilamarter, in-person learning brings an added layer of teaching confidence and says she noticed a smooth transition back to class as soon as her students walked in.
“This morning, it kind’ve felt a little bit like the first day of school, but without the stress of not knowing your students,” Dilamarter said.
“We’ve been apart now for a month, and I really just felt very excited to get back with them. You know your kids. By this time of year you know what they need, and as hard as we try online, it’s very difficult to give them what they need.”
Despite the weather, most schools in the region stayed open, however the Thames Valley District School Board announced Monday morning that some schools had to close “as a result of staff shortages.”
Few other details were shared in the tweet announcing the news, but the TVDSB said the affected schools “will be communicating this information directly to families,” adding that the closures were “local decisions.”
Families with students in the TVDSB, including those at Riverside Public, are still being offered a remote learning option as schools reopen.
When the Ministry of Education unveiled its preparations for the return to in-person learning last week, it was announced that schools could rotate between in-person and remote days or combine classes, if needed, to minimize closures driven by virus-related staff absences.
A number of other plans have been made by the province an in effort to brace for any potential disruptions caused by the Omicron variant, including the deployment of rapid antigen tests to all Ontario schools and the planned delivery of 3,000 additional HEPA filters for schools.