VICTORIA -- Wearing gloves to sign-in and sanitizing that pen are just a few of the new safety measures for staff at Marigold Elementary School. The school’s principal, Dwayne Doyle, says he’s excited for an influx of students there next Monday.

“It feels exactly like September 1st,” he says. “So, we’ve redesigned the school around safety first.”

The redesigns include arrows on the floor to direct traffic, as well as markers on the floor to show kids where to stand while they wait to wash their hands — something they’ll be required to do regularly.

“Hand washing is really going to be important,” said Doyle. “So, before students even come into the classroom, they’ll check-in. And in every classroom there’s a sink and soap and that’s where they will sing their songs.”

Other efforts to ensure physical distancing include reducing the number of students and desks in a classroom by half, and placing desk chairs at least 2 metres apart.

Lunch and recess at Marigold Elementary will be staggered, to make sure there is less traffic in the schoolyard at any one time.

The children of some essential workers are already back at school, with some in the classroom as many as five days a week.

The provincial government says different school districts are expecting a varying number of students to return to classrooms next week — a range of between 80 per cent to 20 per cent attendance, depending on the district.

The Greater Victoria School District says it anticipates that approximately 50 per cent of its students will be back in the classroom next week.

Students from Kindergarten to Grade 5 — who aren’t the children of essential workers —can return to school two days per week. Older students can return to the classroom up to 20 per cent of the time

Many families remain nervous about sending their children back to school next month, however.

In fact, an online petition has emerged with more than 30,000 signatures that voices concerns about the safety of the return, and demands that schools do not reopen their classrooms until September.

The superintendent of schools for the Greater Victoria School District, Shelley Green, says that nervousness is understandable.

She emphasizes that it remains the parent’s choice whether to send their children back to the classroom, but adds it is considered a safe place.

“We wouldn’t be opening our buildings if we didn’t think we could provide safe spaces for our students,” Green said.

She also says that when school returns in September, it currently looks highly likely that it will be in a hybrid form, involving both in-classroom learning and learning from home.