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Back-to-school season brings mix of nerves, excitement for 'normal' school year

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It’s time to go back to school once again, but this time it’s a return to what could be the most normal school year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Carleton University, there is excitement heading into fall. Natalia Mora is an international student getting ready for graduate school here.

“It feels amazing to be back,” says Mora. “For me, as a Colombian, I feel really proud. And I’m very, very exited for this upcoming year.”

Starting Thursday, it will be a flurry of activity here when students start moving into residency. Pandemic Septembers over the last two years have been much quieter than this year.

“We’re moving in 3,600 students in four days,” says Carley Pompa, Carleton student staff member. “So now I believe you’re allowed to have more guests in your room. No masks on campus at the moment; that may change. You’re allowed to have off-campus guests as well.”

And for kids going back to grade school, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit says he’s ok with younger kids not wearing masks this year.

“I believe that it’s time to go back to as much of a normal state as possible,” says Roumeliotis. “Actually, the risks of that are higher in terms of making mental health and developmental problems worse than the COVID risk itself, as we see it today.”

Students in Ottawa’s French language school boards return to school Tuesday, while the English boards bring kids back to class next week.

Back at the university level, about 60 to 70 per cent of students are still masking up indoors.

“Even though there’s no masks, there’s still quite a few students who wear them inside. So everyone here seems like they’re overall safe and aware of COVID,” says fourth year student Ryan Fitzsimmons.

“Kind of nervous,” says fourth year student TJ Sharma. “I’m not ready for the small seats. I’m not really prepared to take notes again. I’ve gotten really used to online classes. But I finally get to see my profs and I get to see their face and they see my face.”

Some students here going in person for the first time after being virtual last year.

“Everything is back in person and I’m just looking forward to seeing everybody and see how the environment in-person will be like.” Says second year student West Onyefure.

For Natalia Mora, she’s just glad things are slowly retuning to normal again.

“It’s really fun to just be back to normal finally,” says Mora. “And to feel like everything is ok and will be okay. Again.”

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