LONDON, ONT. -- There is still much apprehension among parents as students in the London region head back to class for in-person learning for the first time in six weeks.

“I’m very excited,” said Winston Somerville, who attends senior kindergarten. His father, Owen Somerville feels it’s for the best.

“Cautiously optimistic. I think, all things considered, it’s a good thing.”

The pair could be found at London’s Doidge Park Sunday, which attracted hundreds of families over the weekend for tobogganing.

Elementary students are set to return to school Monday morning, while high school students return on Thursday.

Parent Carolyn McGill, with a child in elementary school, said she has mixed feelings about the restart of school during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think it’s far too soon, but I think it’s good for them. I feel like our numbers are just starting to drop, so that’s good. But I feel like they could have gone down a little bit more.”

Her friend, Trina Brown, also with one child in grade school, said she thinks the positives outweigh the risks.

“I’m a little apprehensive but I think it’s good for them to go back to school. With them wearing the mask and everything, I think they’ve been sick less even this year than last year.”

When in-person learning stopped for the Christmas break, local school boards continued reporting COVID cases connected to schools for several weeks after.

That’s what’s Craig Smith hasn’t stopped thinking about. The president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Thames Valley, worries about another possible surge in cases in the coming weeks, particularly after the province’s emergency order is lifted.

“Schools are buildings where large numbers of people congregate in close quarters. It is a challenge on a good day. So we have all sorts of mingling going on in schools. We have that happening in the yard. At breaks. And the board has no control over what happens in the broader community.”

The return to school comes with stronger mask protocols, asymptomatic testing, and more rigorous screening. The province has not made clear exactly how that’s all going to work.

“Do we cruise through this, or do we find ourselves in a couple weeks in the same spot we were before Christmas?” wondered Smith.