By Lethbridge Herald on August 20, 2020.
Holy Spirit Catholic School Division is preparing for the resumption of in-class learning this fall after 86 per cent of its parents indicated on a recent survey their children would be returning to school.
“We are pleasantly surprised with the number of parents who have requested to come back,” says Holy Spirit Superintendent of Schools Ken Sampson. “For a lot of parents, particularly those families where both are working, they need to have their children back to school. We’re mindful of that, and we have really spent the summer going through schools and making sure things were sanitized and deep cleaned. We are also going to be following all the health measures that are coming out from Alberta Health Services or Alberta Education.”
Sampson says the school division has also taken extra steps not dictated by Alberta Education health guidelines to ensure safety for all students.
“We have removed all of the drinking fountains, and hydration stations for reusable bottles have been installed,” he explains. “If they weren’t in schools already, we put new ones in. We also have the directional arrows of traffic flow. We have put in hand-sanitization stations throughout the building. We have protocols on movement and staggered entry. We have designated doors in schools where students would be coming in, and designated exits.”
Sampson further explains Holy Spirit schools will all be operating on a closed-campus model. There will be designated drop-off and pick-up points for students.
Parents, and other outside guardians, will not be allowed on campus except by appointment arranged with staff members in advance.
All extracurricular activities will also be cancelled this fall.
“Because we are still in a pandemic situation, and our guidelines for a safe return during a pandemic are saying any extracurricular activities would be, until such times things may change, be on hold,” Sampson explains. “That would include athletics, any sort of gathering of students outside of regular school hours, so productions for fine arts, for example, or groups and clubs at schools, they are all off and are not permitted at this time.”
Sampson confirms all liturgies and masses will continue, but will take on different forms at different schools as each adjust to public health requirements.
Masks will be required, as per provincial guidelines, for all students between Grades 4 to 12 in all common areas, and in situations where social distancing is not possible, unless otherwise exempted by a doctor’s note.
Those parents who object to their children wearing masks to school on social or political grounds will have to enrol their children in at-home learning, states Sampson.
Sampson says the at-home learning course for that 14 per cent of families who indicate their children will not be returning to campus in September will mirror what is taking place in on-campus courses for that grade level in both content and academic rigour.
Like the Lethbridge School Division, Holy Spirit will also allow parents to transition from at-home learning to on-campus learning. Parents will just have to give one month’s notice in writing they intend for the children to return.
The exception is Catholic Central High School where students must wait for the entire quarter to finish before they will be allowed to return.
Sampson is confident he and his staff members have done everything they can to ensure a safe re-entry for all students on Sept. 1.
“We’re very excited about coming back to school because we recognize the context we were operating under since the middle of March was very atypical,” he explains. “We know students are pretty hungry to come back to learning and seeing their friends. Rightfully so, we also understand a number of our parents are cautious about making this move to send them back or not send them back. We want parents to know we have done our utmost to ensure our schools are being kept disinfected. We are going to be increasing or cleaning and caretaking staff across the division to make sure we can keep up with the need there.”
“But we are excited to get our kids back,” Sampson adds, “and to provide top-quality Catholic education to our students regardless if they are at home or if they are at school.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter