VICTORIA -- With students returning to classes in just over a week, the Cowichan Valley School District says it’s taken every precaution necessary for a safe return for students.

School District 79 has purchased 70 portable hand-washing stations to be distributed throughout its 17 elementary schools and five secondary schools.

It has also established safe school-entry protocols for staff and students.

Hand sanitizer will be at all entry points and in every classroom.

Reusable masks have also be purchased for every student and staff member of the district.

“When students are in their learning group it’s not required that they have to wear their masks but when they are in hallways or they are close to one another they would have to,” said Robyn Gray, superintendent of the Cowichan Valley School District.

The Cowichan Valley School District says all the personal protective equipment was purchased through a grant from the Ministry of Education.

“There will also have to be physical distancing protocols in place,” Gray said.

The school district is a sprawling one, serving communities from Chemainus to Lake Cowichan and as far south as Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake.

Over 8,000 students fall into the district's catchment and over half of those students take the bus to school every day.

“We are suggesting that any families that can provide an opportunity of transportation in their own vehicle to do so, but overall we will provide all of our families with bus service,” said Gray. “We have some great protocols in place with regard to how we load the bus and how we take the students off the bus.”

All high-school students will be encouraged to return to in-class learning. High schools will operate a little differently though, with students taking two courses at a time for a 10-week period.

“Our schools are ready for our learners,” said Gray. “We have all of our procedures in place, health and safety protocols are fine-tuned and our schools are deep cleaned.”

Gray said any parent with concerns about returning to class can contact their school principal or vice-principal and they will walk them through in detail, how their children's school will operate this coming school year.