HALIFAX -- New Brunswick is three weeks away from an academic year, unlike any other. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the province's school system is adapting to ensure the safety of students and staff. While there are gaps in the province's safety plan, teachers say they're pleased with what they've heard so far.

"Students of all ages will need to bring a clean face mask to school with them every day," said N.B. Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Dominic Cardy, on Thursday. Face masks are not going to be required inside the classroom while students are working if physical distancing can be maintained."

Cardy has launched information sessions – to take place every Tuesday and Thursday – to answer questions that students, parents, and teachers have concerning returning to school during the pandemic.

Teachers say the information sessions are putting their minds at ease.

"To date, I have to say that the return to school plan for New Brunswick appears to be better than the return to school plan for many of our neighbours," says New Brunswick Teachers' Association president, Rick Cuming. "The reduced class sizes at many levels and the regular involvement of public health in all aspects of the plan are encouraging."

However, Cuming notes some teachers are wary.

"I still continue to get questions about regular class sizes in middle school, which many middle-level teachers would identify as a gap in the plan," says Cuming.

Operational plans for schools are being finalized, and Cuming would like to see teachers have a say in those plans as classes get underway. Cuming says he's been meeting with WorkSafeNB and the New Brunswick Department of Public Safety to finalize safety measures.

A letter from the Anglophone South School District to parents of students from grades six to twelve advises students to bring reusable water bottles to school with them, as water fountains have been replaced with bottle filling stations. Additionally, students should bring their own lunch upon returning to class, as cafeteria services will not be available for at least the first week. Officials also promise much more daily-cleaning in schools – especially common areas.

And while there could be an election campaign coinciding with students' return to school, Cuming says no matter how much "noise" it might make, the safety of students and staff should continue to be top of mind.

"We would certainly hope that if there is any coming election, that the people at the Department of Education will continue to be focused on the educational system," says Cuming.