Boundary students got a delayed back-to-school this week, after School District 51 announced Friday that students would need to stay home June 1 and 2, due to the regional State of Local Emergency.
“We anticipate many of our staff and students may be directly or indirectly impacted by this event, therefore, teachers will not assign schoolwork on Monday or Tuesday of next week,” the district said in a statement.
“Assuming EOC models are accurate, our return to school services will commence on Wednesday, June 3rd.”
Just like districts across the province, SD 51 is welcoming students back to school this week, but their daily routines and classroom life will look much different as schools adapt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Last week the district released its back-to-school health and safety plan as required by the Ministry of Education, and has been communicating with families to ensure that children know what to expect.
Before even considering sending their children to school, parents must assess their children daily for cold, flu, COVID-19, and other infectious respiratory system infections. If teachers note any symptoms exhibited during the school day, parents will be called to pick up their child.
“The buildings are cleaned and disinfected,” said Janet Thorpe, local president of CUPE 2098, who represents support workers, bus drivers and other school district staff. Thorpe said that custodians will continue to clean the buildings throughout the school day and do a complete clean after students have left for the day as well.
Hours in session
In-class hours for students have been cut, the district’s plan says, “to accommodate teacher workload to support both remote and in-person student learning, and to ensure cleaning protocols can be maintained.”
As such, elementary school instruction will run from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., Monday to Thursday. Kindergarten to Grade 7 students may attend school two days per week.
High school instruction will run from 9:15 a.m. to 2 p.m., and students in Grade 8 to 12 may attend school for one day per week, while completing the remainder of their instruction online.
Children of essential service workers – many of whom have been attending school through April and May – can continue to attend school four days per week, as can students who require extra learning support.
What a school day will look like
Before leaving home, students of all ages are asked to thoroughly wash their hands before leaving their homes. Students must arrive at school within five minutes of the beginning of class, and leave within five minutes of the end of class.
Bus drivers will be wearing masks while students load and offload, as the district looks to install more permanent safe barriers between drivers and their passengers. Students not from the same household must sit staggered through the rows to create as much physical space between them as possible.
Upon arrival at school, elementary students will be asked to maintain physical distancing (two metres between each other) as they meet their teachers outside. Students will then enter the classroom and either wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. High school students will enter the building through the exterior door assigned to their grade. No students will have access to their lockers. As such, seating will be assigned and students will have to keep all personal effects (backpack, lunch kit, jacket, etc.) at their seat.
There is a 13-person occupancy cap for elementary school classrooms (1o students, three adults).
Only one student will be allowed to use a school washroom at a time, and a staff member will ensure that students wash their hands properly.
Reminding students and staff to keep their social distance will be key to a safe return for all, Thorpe said. “It’s difficult because it goes against the way we’ve always done our jobs, but these are different times and we’re all getting it.”
Some staff, Thorpe said, may not be able to keep physical distance as they work with children with physical challenges, but they will be working with their supervisors to develop tailored plans to minimize risk.
“We’re learning ourselves and we’re teaching the kids about these new expectations and rules,” Thorpe said, “which are not only rules for school there are going to be rules for life.”