The local school district has released their plan for how schools will return to class this month.
School District 5 (SD5) Southeast Kootenay has released their district plan, and each school within SD5 also created and released individual school plans based on the COVID-19 Protocols for School Operation, along with guidelines from the ministry and the Provincial Health Officer.
“The number one priority in the school plans is the health and safety of students and staff,” said Jason Tichauer, director of student learning and Aboriginal education for SD5.
“We have done the best we can for kids within the guidelines of this pandemic. I would encourage folks to check school websites and really read the school plans in depth, and if they have questions, then head to the parent information sessions and have conversations.”
The COVID-19 Protocols for School Operation outlines information about cleaning plans, traffic flow, health and wellness protocols, learning groups, physical barriers, student transportation, physical distancing, handwashing, visitor access, curriculum, personal protective equipment, and how to manage students with complex or medical needs, as well as those with immune suppression and delegated care.
One of the changes this school year is the implementation of learning groups to reduce the risk of transmission and allow for more efficient contact tracing.
According to Silke Yardley, superintendent of SD5, learning groups are defined as, “a group of students and staff who remain together throughout a school term and who primarily interact with each other. A learning group could be made up of a single class of students with their teacher, multiple classes that sometimes join for additional learning activities or a group of secondary school students with the same courses.”
Learning groups are to be finalized on the first few days of school. Anyone outside designated learning groups that interact with students at school are to physically distance and use personal protective equipment.
Other regulations include the requirement for students in middle and elementary school to use masks and physically distance when in common spaces and when interacting with members not in their learning group. Non-medical masks are not required for elementary students. Masks will be provided to all middle and secondary school children.
Elementary learning groups will consist of a maximum of 60 students, with the option of combining two classes to support learning. The learning groups must remain consistent for all activities within school, and students may interact freely within their group.
Middle school students are to be split into learning groups of 48, divided into two classrooms of 24 students and taught by two teachers in their group.
Secondary schools have decided on two learning group models: a quarter system where the year is divided into quarters with two courses being taught at a time, and a modified semester system, where class size limits are still being followed and teacher contact is greatly reduced.
Secondary school students are expected to attend school 100 per cent of the time, with class size limits differing depending on the course, however ranging between 24 and 30 students.
Within their return to school plan, SD5 also provided a daily self assessment checklist for COVID-19 symptoms, available on their website.
“One of the greatest preventative measures involves staying home when showing any symptoms of COVID19,” said Yardley.
All schools will host a parent question and answer session between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1, and students are expected to return to school full time on Sept. 10. Students will be taught about all new protocols within the first few weeks of school.
For information regarding teaching models, curriculums, busing, health and safety, as well as further recommendations, refer to SD5’s website.
Any parents choosing to home school are urged to visit SD5’s website for support, or to contact school principals for conversations about educational options.