After repeated pushbacks, schools across the country will finally be reopening for hybrid learning on Monday.

This anticipated reopening comes after two years of educational losses - kids who don't have electronic devices or internet, students who don't hand in their packages, children who aren't monitored and don't have the support at home, and minors wandering the streets when they should be in classes. COVID has put a serious dent in the education of Belize's children and it will take a lot of remedial work to bring them back up to their grade level.

But schools are preparing and between the teachers, and the parents there's an odd mix of enthusiasm and anxiety - while the students are likely happy just to be back on campus in the company of their classmates.

Still, we aren't out of the pandemic yet, and there are strict protocols that must be adhered to keep students as safe as possible - especially with Omicron's rapid transmissibility.

Courtney Menzies visited three city high schools to see how they're gearing up for Monday. Here is that story.

On Monday, some students will be seeing the inside of a classroom for the first time in almost two years. For many of those kids, it's the first time they'll be on campus. It's an exciting time for both the children and the teachers - but it's not all cake and champagne.

With the number of new COVID cases hovering near 600 every day due to Omicron, even those schools that have been preparing for months had to adjust their initial plans for reopening.

Deborah Domingo, Principal, Maud Williams
"With the spike in numbers, we had to revisit a full opening for January 10th so instead of students coming back for two days per week, we ended up revising it and having them come one day per week, at least for the first two weeks so we could see if the number of COVID 19 cases will begin to decline then we can go ahead and open as we had planned."

"So right now we have our students who will continue to do remote learning in some subject areas and for a few, those that we have deemed most important for them to pass this first semester, those are the ones we're offering face to face with the online support."

Karen Canto, Principal, Edward P Yorke
"A group would have been Monday/Wednesday and B group would have been Tuesday/Thursday and on Friday they work asynchronously from their Google classroom so that was our plan, we're set, the parents already know the groups, we already worked on cafeteria, food provision, everything, but with the onset of Omicron, we decided it's still too dangerous."

"So we consulted with the chief, well I did, and she said go ahead do the phase, so we're phasing in the fourth form, still following the A/B because we do not want more than 18 in class."

"Two reasons why we started with fourth form. First of all, CXC moderations begin as early as next month and we do have a lot of kids taking CXC's and second, they are older but still we believe that we will have to literally reorient them to life on campus, everything from maintaining all the protocols lining up for lunch, where you come in, where you exit, how many of you in the bathroom at one time. They are older, so we hope that they will grab it quick, they will be here for two weeks, just fourth form on campus, then third will join them and we go through it again."

Nelson Longsworth, Principal, ACC
"The teachers are teaching from their classrooms, we have to design that they are protected as much as possible and the spacing for students to be seated and their desk are well-marked and a whole protocol on how you can move around in the classroom are established and to be practiced again on Monday, because it's an ongoing process. It's not something that you do naturally, so you have to continue practicing it you get it done right. While students are in school, the remainder of the student body will be at home engage with online learning simultaneously."

But some parents are reluctant to send their kids back to school, while others can't wait. In both cases, though, the parents have serious concerns about the safety of their children.

Courtney Menzies:
"What happens to the children who their parents decide they won't send them to school?"

Deborah Domingo, Principal, Maud Williams
"We will have to supplement with the learning packages and the learning packages for our school, those are always supported by the online videos and so on and so we will have to make accommodations because this is real and the fear is not irrational fear."

Nelson Longsworth, Principal, ACC
"The parents themselves want their kids to be back in school. It's very challenging for them and they realize that learning is not a hundred percent given that modality, so they want, but of course they want to make sure that they are safe when they are here and that's our job to keep them as safe as we can."

But even with COVID concerns, the principals agree without hesitation that it's time to get students back inside the classrooms - for their own good.

Karen Canto, Principal, Edward P Yorke
"As an educator, I know they need their classrooms, I know they need each other, and I know they need their teachers. Definitely we've seen that having them at home, and you've seen this before, they have no one to help them, no one to help them academically with their assignments as well as no one to monitor their time online so they don't put on their cameras and we've learnt from parents, like parents who pull up behind them suddenly, they say, Miss! He's on whatever. So the teacher is teaching and no one's responding because he's doing his own thing on his phone."

Deborah Domingo, Principal, Maud Williams
"It is time for students to get back into classes. The challenge is how to do it and do it safely. What the pandemic has done with school closure and so on, is to widen the gap between the haves and the have's not, so the disparity show up more pronounced and so if we are able to get the students back who are most in need of being in school I think it's a win win."

Nelson Longsworth, Principal, ACC
"Schools were never built to have a few students in a classroom, the infrastructure is design for a bigger grouping and so that's our biggest challenge trying to get a safe number in and how we can ensure that that happens as frequently as possible, because our students are too long being away from the classroom. Online has really hurt us, hurt our students in so many different ways. Many of the students need that prompting, that support and when parents are at work and they are at home, you don't get the best out of it, so that has been one of the drawbacks in the online learning."

In terms of student vaccinations, all the schools we spoke to, have passed the 50% mark - with EP Yorke having the highest at 84%. Most of the staff members at three of the schools have also already been vaccinated - and many are working on getting that booster.

Channel 7