By Submitted Article on October 21, 2020.
We are now halfway through October, well on our way into the 2020-21 school year. This is a year that we all recognize as being challenging, stressful, full of anxiety but also a school year that was met with great joy as we were able to return to our school buildings and once again greet students in the classroom.
While we have had some setbacks along the way, overall, schools have been successful in their approach in welcoming students back into the buildings in as safe as way as possible given the circumstances. The term “welcome back” sounds like an easily offered statement to make, but, in fact, the work that is done each day to ensure that students and staff have a safe environment to work and learn in takes a great deal of time and effort on the part of the staff.
The day normally starts early in the morning with the school caretaking staff going through the school ensuring that everything is clean, disinfecting stations are full and each classroom has enough hand sanitizer for the day. While this is occurring at the school, bus drivers are ensuring their buses are disinfected and ready for student pickups. As the students embark on the bus, the driver reminds them to sit in their assigned seats and to keep their masks on while they are on the bus. Upon arrival at the school, bus students and those students that arrive via other modes are reminded about social distancing, staying in the right area of the school fields, or where to line up to enter the school.
Upon entering the school, students are reminded to wash their hands or to use the hand sanitizer at the door. School staff are present to make sure that everyone follows the school’s safety protocols; this may include walking in the halls in specific directions, using every other locker, only limited people in washroom areas, no congregating in the halls or entrances, and, of course, mask-wearing. As students enter the classroom they are again reminded to hand sanitize, wear masks as required or social distancing as appropriate. After all these steps are done, the class can begin.
Each time a student needs to leave the classroom, the routine of masks on, hand sanitizing and handwashing must be repeated. Recess breaks involve only cohort groups going outside or on break alternately, again with routine masking, handwashing and sanitizing hands, all need to be done prior to the next lesson being taught. For many schools, multiple recess breaks are needed to ensure that all the cohorts in the schools have adequate recess breaks during the morning and afternoon. With the increased regiment of the cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing occurring during the day, teachers continue to offer the amazing learning experiences they always have.
After the last student has left the school and climbed off the bus, the staff continue to ensure that the school environment is clean and ready for the next day. Caretaking staff complete a thorough cleaning of the school and sanitize all high-touch surfaces, bus drivers clean and sanitize their buses and school staff sanitize equipment and materials for later use.
The work is tiring and at times frustrating, but the payoff of having students back in the building is huge!
In the COVID era, ensuring students have a safe and healthy school environment takes the effort of many people, from parents keeping ill children home to all the staff that keep the school clean and safe throughout the day; everyone plays a role in the success of keeping our schools operating. A big thank you to each and every one of you for ensuring young people are able to attend class in our schools!
Dave Driscoll is the Superintendent of Palliser Regional Schools.