Plans are taking shape to welcome students back to Christ-King Catholic School this fall.
“The province released their guidelines, and some of them were specific enough to say, this is how it has to be within your building,” said Tara McMillan, the school’s principal.
“But there were a number of things that were slightly more vague just because what works for one school may not work for another one – depending on its size, depending on whether they are in a city centre or in rural Alberta,” she said, adding that the government guidelines came down on July 21st.
“It was basically that day that we started to work on this,” she said. “We took those guidelines and created a district plan. From there, our principals were given our district plan and we were instructed to tailor it to our schools specifically,” she said.
“There were a few things that were left up to a bit of interpretation in terms of what would apply to our school specifically.”
Detailed information on heading back to class was recently sent out to school families, covering everything from a staggered return (one group returning Aug. 31st and the other returning Sept. 1st to the wearing of masks.
It was also noted that things may change slightly as September approaches.
”We want to keep our students, families, and staff safe but still provide the many educational experiences we normally do (just in a different style!) and still have fun,” noted the document. “It will be different but we are committed to maintaining the welcoming, energetic atmosphere we always do!”
Bringing students back in two groups allows each class to attend at half capacity to ensure staff can establish new routines and that the new schedule runs smoothly.
“We can (also) maintain all safety protocols with less students in the first two days as we all adjust.”
Families will be informed of their entry day the week of Aug. 24th.
Also, masks are mandatory for Grade 4-9 students – the government will be supplying each student with two reusable masks.
It’s also been p0inted out that students do not need to wear masks all day – there will be times throughout the day where they are properly spaced (i.e. in class at desks, outside etc.) where it will be safe to remove them.
“Masks are mandatory for all staff in the building unless in a situation where there is appropriate spacing to remove them safely. Face shields will be available for use by staff.”
Kindergarten to Grade 3 students are not required to wear masks but can choose to bring them and wear them if they can do so properly and safely.
In terms of classroom set-up, desks and tables have been spaced out as far as possible in each classroom. Students will be in rows and will face the same direction.
Also, work cannot be shared by students so group work will be done through the use of technology to allow for proper spacing.
“Scheduled hand-washing/sanitizing will also be built into each classroom schedule to ensure students are completing this regularly throughout the day. All students will also be ‘cohorted’ into a group of no more than 35 students maximum for the school year (we have estimated high to prepare accordingly).
“At no time will different cohorts mix physically – virtual ‘visits’ with other cohorts may take place.”
Also, each student will also hand sanitize on the way in and the way out of school and each grade will be given an assigned doorway in the school to enter and leave by.
Meanwhile, for parents who are still wary of sending their children back to school, McMillan said she understands that concern.
“There are still some unknowns, and there will be some things that we see as we go along,” she explained. “That’s just the reality of the situation.
“But really, when it comes down to it, the teachers get into this business because we care about the kids and we want to see them be successful. Is this year going to be different than what we are used to? Absolutely! But we will tackle this challenge and we will do the best that we can,” she said.
“I think that for parents, it’ about being able to ask the questions they want to ask and having someone here to answer them as best we can and to reassure them that although it’s not perfect, we will be working together as a team.
“And we are going to make sure each individual student gets the support that they need,” she said.
“I think that will give them a bit more confidence in sending their children back in September,” she said.
CKCS is also partnering up with their ‘sister’ school (still part of the ECCS Division), the School of Hope, to offer virtual learning to those that would prefer to learn from home.
“This is an excellent option for parents as School of Hope is part of our School Division, which means transferring over internally will be seamless.
“Our district is very fortunate – we have already have a virtual school in place – we’ve had School of Hope for a number of years in our district. Not every district has a virtual school. They’ve always been our sister school, but this year we are working a little more closely with them than we ever have before.
“If a parent isn’t comfortable sending their child back to the brick and mortar school, then School of Hope is an option,” she said. “And if they are already students at Christ-King, we are helping with the transfer so that it’s seamless. And when they want to come back to us, when they feel comfortable, the transition will be seamless again.”