A year ago Diane Dawson, principal at Braniel PS in east Belfast, never felt a fear like it.
One year later the contrast in emotions is stunning.
In one week's time, her P1 to P3 pupils will be back in the classroom. And right at the start of spring, after a long, hard winter, there's a real sense of a new beginning.
"I woke up yesterday and I can't remember the last time I felt so excited," she said. "It's the best feeling, knowing the children are coming back in."
Diane said she can't ever remember being so scared, having children in her care, and the staff as well, during the pandemic.
"Last August we knew nothing about bubbles when we came back after the summer holidays. We had no PPE, no idea how we were going to manage things."
The 480 children under her care last left the school building a week before Christmas. They haven't been back since.
"Without the children all we have is a big, old and empty building," she said. "The building isn't the school, the children are, and having them back will be an unbelievable feeling.
"And one thing that has annoyed me through all this is that people seem to have forgotten that children are little people too.
"They way children have been talked about during the pandemic has distressed me.
"They have the same fears, anxieties, hopes and desires as everyone else. They are more than data. Our children are real people who we just can't switch on and off as we please."
Diane feels the phased return, as set out by the Executive two weeks ago, is the right one, but added: "There's one problem that does need addressed though. The idea of bringing P1-P3 back in for nine days and then have them return to remote learning doesn't sit comfortably. They need some sort of stability.
"We shouldn't be welcoming them back with open arms just to let them go again. I hope the Executive can look at that, especially when we're all talking about recovery from a mental health point of view."
Diane is equally excited to unleash a new recovery curriculum on the pupils to ease them back into the classroom. "It's all about teaching the child, not the curriculum," she said. "We've planned for this and worked hard on it.
"But that's where we're going to need support from the Department. Talking, play and communication are going to be key."
But there's one year group Diane has particular concerns for, and she now wants to see the two transfer test examination bodies urgently entering dialogue with schools and parents.
"For P6 pupils, they've gone a long time without school. What we need now is for the AQE and PPTC to talk to us and take a serious look at how transfer tests are going to be handled," she said.
"There's a strong case for the exam bodies to reduce the content of the tests for all pupils. It's vital we start those conversations now when we still have time."