Staff at Stettler Elementary School are gearing up to welcome back students in what is certainly an unprecedented year.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Sharon Fischer, the school’s principal, adding that ultimately, it’s also about making adaptations as things move forward.
And although there are certain aspects to heading back to the classroom that the Province has mandated be the same for all schools, there is also flexibility from school to school in some areas.
“A lot of it is laid out but things that are going to work in Brownfield School aren’t necessarily going to work in Stettler Elementary, or things that are going to work in Red Deer aren’t going to work in Provost. So there is a bit of flexibility there – such as with structuring timetables for example.
“Another example would be staggered entry,” she said, adding that about 25 per cent of students will likely be expected on the Monday and another 25 per cent on the following day and so on.
“How we use lockers also – there is some flexibility from school to school,” she explained. “That will come down to what cohort the student is in so we don’t have classes that are next to each other out in the hallway at the same time,” she explained.
However, Alberta Education has mandated that Grade 4 to 12 students and staff must wear masks where physical distancing cannot be maintained, including on school buses and shared areas such as hallways, according to a release.
Masks are not required while students are seated in the classroom during instruction if following the physical distancing guidance for schools.
They are required in the classroom when close contact between students, or students and staff, is occurring. Masks should be used for the duration of this activity, noted a release.
“Exemptions will be made for students and staff who are unable to wear a mask due to medical or other needs.”
Mask use for start right to Grade 3 students is optional, according to Alberta Education. “If parents would like their child to wear a mask, we will respect and honour that decision. Students will be taught procedures for using non-medical masks in the classroom on the first day of classes.
Two reusable, non-medical masks will be provided to each student on their first day of school.
Also, to help families in understanding the changes to transportation operations, the following is a summary of the updates relating to COVID-19 considerations:
“Students will need to wear a mask prior to boarding the school bus and during the school bus trip for any students from Grade 4 to Grade 12. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 may wear a mask if the families choose to use this option,” according to Alberta Education.
“Students (Grade 4 to Grade 12) and the bus driver will wear a mask at all times. The bus driver may wear a face shield with a mask. Drivers will (also) ask students to use hand sanitizer before boarding the bus and while leaving the bus.
Bus drivers will be sanitizing/disinfecting school buses after each bus run for high-touch areas.
Other restrictions run the gamut from students having assigned seating on the morning bus routes to not sharing their devices with other students.
As Fischer noted, there will be changes to how the restrictions are handled during the first few weeks for sure as everyone settles into their new routines.
As to online learning options, those will certainly be available, she said, noting that a recent survey showed that about 78 per cent of parents are saying, ‘Yes, we are going to be sending (our kids) back to school. We feel comfortable with that.”
But the other options that are open include the aforementioned online schooling much like what was in place from March to June of this year.
“Or, they can choose a home schooling option,” she said. “In that case, the programming, the marking and the day-to-day activities are all planned by the parent.”