When one local teacher heard that people have been praying for all those involved in school this year, she says, "that unnatural peace is coming from somewhere."
Janeen Lange is a kindergarten and grade one teacher working out of Mitchell Elementary School near Steinbach. Each day she teaches kindergarten in the mornings, then grade one in the afternoons.
Starting school just one week ago, Lange says, "I'll be honest, at first I was feeling quite nervous because just like the public, us teachers don't know the answer to everything."
She has been teaching for two years now. Last year she taught grade three.
"We have such a great team that behind those nerves, I also felt this weird peace, that this is going to be okay. I know we're here because we love kids."
When it came to planning out what the school year would look like, because of so many variables, it was hard to get started, according to Lange.
"I tried to narrow in on what I did know, and that was that kids were coming."
While kids are not allowed to touch each other, there is a sign outside of Lange's classroom that displays pictures of acceptable greetings.
"I decided to prepare some activities that would get us talking about this because it's not a big scary secret. We didn't want kids to think they couldn't talk about what's going on in our world, that's so important. But we also didn't want to scare them."
The school's approach to starting off this year during the pandemic is to create a safe place to talk through things.
"There are lots of great resources out there right now, like children's stories that are talking about COVID. We took a step back from curriculum for a few days and just made sure that everyone was okay. Lots of talking, lots of learning, lots of sharing the new rules together. We re-established that school is a safe place and we're happy that they get to be here."
For returning students, there are many new guidelines in place.
"One thing I did that was a little bit different this year is I bought little caddies with compartments because we couldn't do shared supplies this year. Then I put a picture of them with their name on it."
Half of Lange's students are in kindergarten, which means this experience is the only one they know. It makes the transition smoother, according to the teacher.
"The resiliency of the kids surprised me, even though it shouldn't have. They go with the flow and make the job so much easier."
For returning students, it's been almost six months since most of them have been inside of a school building.
Lange says, "It was really hard in March when kids couldn't be with us in school, and I know it drastically changed people's home life as well. I'm really proud of the community that came around each other and supported one another."
The teacher says getting back to the classroom is different yet good.
"We weren't quite sure what everything would look like and we still don't. We figure things out one day at a time, one hour at a time, sometimes. It might look different and we're figuring it out, but I'm just thankful above all else."