Back-to-school routine shifts as Montreal family prepares for 'the great unknown'

The Berniard family in Rosemont experiences their first day of the new normal in Quebec schools.

The Berniard family offers a glimpse into how households around Quebec dealt with the first day of school

Laurent Berniard, Emmanuel Berniard, Laetitia Berniard, Erika Dandavino and Arnaud Berniard say the morning was like any other, except this time, they had to remember their masks. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

It's a morning just like many others in the Berniard household in Rosemont.

The kids, half asleep, sit at the dining room table around 7 a.m. as Laurent and his wife Erika Dandavino dance around each other in the kitchen preparing breakfast and lunch at the same time.

Except this time, added to their routine is mask preparation.

"I'm preparing two Ziploc bags, Arnaud!" Dandavino yells to grab her 10-year-old's attention while he brushes his teeth.

"I'm putting two masks in the bag that says clean. When one is dirty, put it in the dirty bag."

The two resealable plastic bags, one which says clean, the other dirty, meant to hold Arnaud’s masks for school. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

This morning, thousands of kids headed back to school in Montreal. Among them were Arnaud, heading into Grade 5 and Emmanuel, in Grade 1 at École Saint-Barthélemy.

Their older sister, 13-year-old Laetitia, now in Grade 8, will be going to École Joseph-François-Perrault.

Arnaud and Laetitia will need to wear a mask at school, when not in the classroom.

"I'm not that stressed about it. I'm relaxed," Laetitia said.

"I know it's going to be not easy and a bit chaotic, but not horrible."

Both Arnaud and Emmanuel say they are anxious to see their friends again.

Laetitia, Emmanuel and Arnaud Berniard are all set to go back to school, even if Laetitia expects it to be ‘a bit chaotic.’ (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

"This coming back to school is the great unknown. We are preparing ourselves," Laurent Berniard said.

"I think it's important for the kids to have some sort of structure that unfortunately, because my wife started working again, because I'm not home, and because we didn't want to do school in the house, we could not provide."

The parents will need to prepare cold lunches, because microwaves are off-limits.

But there are still some unanswered questions — Laurent Berniard says they aren't sure how the after-school program will be structured.

The Berniard family’s busy kitchen this morning as breakfast and lunch are prepared. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

"During school hours, they are going to stay in the same class with the same group, but with service de garde [after school daycare], how is that going to work?" he said.

"We don't know yet."

And into that unknown the family headed this morning.

Day one in the books

"The jury is in and apparently it's not that bad," Berniard said, once everybody was back home at the end of the day.

"The new normal is not that different from the old normal."

The mask-wearing obligation, though, will take some getting used to .

"Arnaud doesn't think it's such a great idea but he has to go with it," Berniard said.

Dandavino noted that pickup took a lot longer than usual, with parents waiting in the schoolyard for 15 minutes or more.

As for their questions around after-school care, Berniard said the school kept the kids who stayed in their classroom, something Emmanuel didn't like.

"It's not much to do about nothing because it is quite a big deal, but the verdict is out and it's not so bad," Berniard said.


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