By Lethbridge Herald on July 22, 2020.
With the province announcing Tuesday it will reopen schools in September, Lethbridge School Division superintendent Cheryl Gilmore said schools in the division will be ready to crack the books with the necessary protocols in place.
“Certainly the announcement that was made (Tuesday) afternoon was a little in advance of what we had anticipated,” said Gilmore at a Wednesday press conference. “We knew the premier and minister had committed to an Aug. 1 announcement, but earlier was fine.
“In June they had been clear in describing and rolling out three possibilities, scenarios one, two and three. So we spent a lot of time trying to prepare for all three. Now that we know it’s scenario one, we can now begin to put more details on the plan. We have time for our schools to proceed with the kinds of protocols that are in place for scenario one.
“We’ll be ready. We developed our re-entry guidelines and our parent guide. We have a staff handbook for re-entry. We have spent a lot of time with our school administrators in June to make sure everybody was clear and understood the protocols, protocols that are common across scenarios one and two. We’ve ordered the supplies for those. Our schools will be set up and ready to go.”
The wearing of masks in the schools will be a choice left up to the families, said Gilmore.
“If (parents) want to send their children to school with masks, that is certainly their choice. Masks will not be required.”
School staff will have access to masking and, depending what their role is, have specialized masks, said Gilmore.
“We have some Plexiglas shields for some roles. But certainly we want the staff to feel comfortable and be safe and we want the students to be safe and families to feel confident we have protocols in place. The hand sanitization and hand washing will be a part of the routine of what we do as they come into the building, as they go into classrooms and if they move out of their cohort, staff will be quite vigilant in monitoring the habits that come with good sanitization. It will be a real focus at the beginning of school to teach children and it will remain a focus because children and men and women in our secondary schools need constant reminders of that.
“We’ll be looking at what it means for students to learn, understand and know what their own safety protocols are. So certainly we’re vigilant in putting together a good program for our students when they come back so they understand how they can take care of themselves and the hand washing and the hand sanitizing and social distancing and all of those pieces.”
Cohorting of students and keeping them in the same groupings as much as possible is a bit easier at the elementary school level, said Gilmore.
“It gets a little more challenging at the high school level because it isn’t necessarily the same students taking the same courses every period. But certainly our principals are working on that and making every effort on that and to have cohorting where possible.”
An early survey sent out to parents in June asked whether or not in scenario one or scenario two that they felt comfortable, at that time, with sending students to school.
“At that time we had about 22 per cent of parents say they were not comfortable sending their students to school under scenario one and about 17 per cent of parents saying they weren’t comfortable sending their children to school under scenario two,” said Gilmore.
Another survey will go out Aug. 1 to all parents in the school division.
“It’s a survey that will ask parents to commit to their choice of instructional delivery, whether or not they’ll be sending their children to school or whether or not they desire to be part of an at-home learning cohort,” said Gilmore. “So once we know how many will be part of an at-home learning cohort we would structure what those cohorts look like for being combined and assigned to a teacher for at-home learning,”
In the event of any COVID-19 flareups, Gilmore said Alberta Health Services will take over.
“With respect to tracing and containment of any confirmed cases of COVID in a school, health services have protocols ready to go to quickly do the tracing and containment. So we would follow health services rules in a timely manner. So health services would take the lead.”
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