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Julia Vardy was heartbroken to think she couldn’t be with her five-year-old son Berkley on his first day of kindergarten next month.

But the resident of Wabush, a small town in western Labrador, is now breathing a sigh of relief, after Newfoundland and Labrador said it would allow parents to accompany their children to kindergarten on the first day, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a parent, that’s one of the things you look forward to is their first day of school,” Vardy said. “I’m the type of parent, I have everything planned out since he was small – how I pictured it going – and never did I picture a pandemic in the middle of it.”

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The province’s education department said this weekend that it reviewed its plan for parents who want to be at school with their kindergarten-aged children when classes resume Sept. 9.

In an e-mail late Saturday, spokeswoman Jacquelyn Howard said suggestions would be provided to school administrators to accommodate parents.

“The ministry understands and appreciates the importance of supporting kindergarten children as they transition to their first day of school,” Howard said.

Howard said the province consulted with the chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, and the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, the province’s largest school district, on its decision.

Schools will let parents know their specific plans ahead of the first day of classes, she said.

Plans may include organizing an outdoor welcoming activity for the child, teacher and two parents; holding a welcome event in the gym and then allowing one parent to enter the classroom with their child; or using staggered entry times.

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, which represents approximately 64,000 students and more than 8,200 employees at schools across the province, announced its full back-to-school plan on Aug. 17.

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It said elementary and high school students must wear masks on buses and it also made masks mandatory in common areas of high schools.

Masks aren’t needed inside classrooms because students can safely maintain distance while seated, Fitzgerald said during the announcement.

“Our goal in all of this is to have kids go back to school in as normal a way as possible,” she said. “If the information we get changes, if the evidence changes, then we’ll change.”

To date, Newfoundland and Labrador has reported 269 cases of COVID-19 and three deaths since the pandemic began.

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