Students across Waterloo region are able to say goodbye to their classmates in-person for the first time since 2019, as the final school day before summer vacation is here for some elementary school students.

The school year wraps up Monday for elementary school students in the Waterloo Region District School Board.

Elementary school students with the Waterloo Catholic District School board still have a couple of days to go. Their last day of school is on Wednesday.

Previous years saw students ending their school year in a virtual setting, as the uncertainties from the pandemic shuttered in-person learning at schools across Ontario.

“I will say it was definitely one of the hardest years for many of us in our careers," said jeewan chanicka director of education, Waterloo Region District School Board. "There's nothing that we could compare it to at all."

Despite the interruptions to the school year, students at Suddaby Public School in Kitchener said it was special being able to spend the last day of school in person and with their friends.

“It's been a really fun year because last year we had to do Google Meets and Zooms and it wasn't that fun,” said Ela, who just completed Grade 4.

WHAT EFFECT DID COVID-19 HAVE ON STUDENTS THIS YEAR?

Throughout the school year, students were navigating COVID-19 protocols, like masking, social distancing and daily screenings.

School boards were given rapid antigen tests for distribution to students in a bid to protect them once in-person learning returned.

Staff spent countless hours repackaging the rapid antigen test kits, as each package came with five tests, but students were only permitted to take home two tests each.

The Omicron wave added another layer of complexity for students.

The provincial government reinstated a mandate of fully virtual learning for the month of January.

Following March break, masking requirements were lifted by the province, but many staff and students continued to wear their masks in the school setting.

“On behalf of 65,000 students and 10,000 staff, thank you to everyone who supported us in this journey every step of the way,” said chanicka.