OTTAWA -- Students at two Ottawa schools in the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) are back in class.

Students at Brenard-Grandmaître elementary school and Jonathan-Pitre elementary school began classes two weeks ahead of the remainder of the board. The CECCE says the first of school for all other schools in the board is Sept. 3.

The CECCE celebrated the first day of school, despite the differences parents and students are experiencing.

"I would like to thank the parents who have chosen to entrust their children's education to the CECCE's French Catholic schools. The trustees worked very hard to make this school a reality, and we're proud that the CECCE can now serve francophones in Riverside South. The board is also pleased to see that more families want a balanced school year for their children, in part because it's more compatible with how they want to schedule their work and vacation time," said board trustee Chad Mariage in a press release sent Wednesday.

There are many changes to life in elementary school because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the reopening of the two CECCE schools provides an early look at what school will be like for the remainder of Ottawa's elementary-aged children. 

It is compulsory for parents or guardians to do a daily self-test for COVID-19 symptoms with their children before they can attend classes.

Backpacks will be allowed, but with minimal personal items. A personal water bottle should be provided, as water fountains will be off-limits to drinking.

Jonathan Pitre school water fountains

Masks are mandatory for all children in grades 4 and up, and recommended for kindergarten to grade 3.

Elementary students in the CECCE will be in class full-time, five days per week. Students will be grouped into a cohort and only these same cohorts will be in contact all day long, including during the periods such as music, and physical education, as well as during recess and the lunch period.

Whenever possible, only one full teacher is assigned per class.

Recess, lunch and restroom breaks are staggered throughout the day or areas will be designated for each cohort of students to limit the number of people circulating in the school at the same time.

Jonathan Pitre school washrooms

Students will be required to wash their hands frequently, including upon arrival at school, before and after meals and snacks, and whenever returning from outside.

Director of Education Réjean Sirois said, "I'm confident that students and staff will quickly get used to the new measures we've implemented in schools. Our staff have worked very hard over the past few months to comply with ministerial directives and welcome students into a caring environment."