For months, their contents have sat locked up in the stale hallway air in schools across the country.
The jackets, books and gym shoes — along with more perishable items — were left behind in school lockers and cubbies ahead of March break, when provincial governments announced closures that were expected to last weeks.
But as the weeks have turned to months, the forgotten food has turned to mouldy mush.
Now, some school boards are allowing students to return for the sake of retrieving the long untouched items.
But as with everything to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, the options vary widely.
Parents whose kids attend schools in New Brunswick’s Anglophone South School District received a letter on April 29 about retrieving items.
“At (elementary) schools, and possibly some middle schools, a parent/guardian is asked to pick up the items. Some schools may package up the items in a bag and label for quick pick-up. At high school, students may clean out their locker,” the note reads.
A spokesman for Alberta’s education minister said each school authority in that province “provided opportunities” for students to grab their belongings.
In Toronto, there’s no such luck.
“I left my Day 2 binder in there, which is definitely the most important thing,” said 14-year-old Tyler Malazo, a Grade 9 student.
His school isn’t semestered, and the binder contains school work for half his classes. But teachers have been pretty understanding, Tyler said, posting materials online for students without access to their supplies.
Malazo also left a winter jacket and — he is loathe to admit — some energy drinks he uses to help him pay attention during early morning classes.
But he has an interim solution to that particular dilemma: “My uncle’s been supplying me.”
Tyler said he hasn’t heard when he’ll be allowed to go back and get his stuff, but he’s confident it will happen eventually.
More troubling, he said, is what some of his friends will find behind their combination locks.
“My friends have actually left iced coffees,” he said. ”I remember my friend leaving an orange jug — like Tropicana.”
The Toronto school board, the largest in the country, is still working out when students will be able to go back and get their things.
“We know that students, parents and staff are eager to pick up belongings from schools,” said Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the Toronto District School Board.
“Staff have been looking at different scenarios that consider a number of different factors such as physical distancing, number of people permitted in the school at one time, and screening measures.”
But he said there are still some unknowns, so the board is waiting for further instruction from the province and public health officials before making a final decision.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2020.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press