The Fernie Academy prepares to reopen their doors in September. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)

The Fernie Academy prepares to bring students back

New mandates include reduced class sizes, physical distancing, and the obligatory use of masks

As schools prepare for a COVID-conscious return to school, The Fernie Academy is taking a number of precautions to ensure the utmost safety of their students and staff.

Among new directives are those involving learning groups, a measure recommended by the Provincial Health Officer to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Learning groups, otherwise referred to as cohorts, are defined by the Ministry of Education as, “a group of students and staff who remain together throughout the school quarter, semester or year and who primarily interact with each other.”

Currently, the Ministry of Education is mandating that elementary and middle school learning groups remain under 60 people, and that secondary school learning groups cap off at 120 people.

To limit interpersonal contact, The Fernie Academy is dividing their class sizes in half, with exceedingly small cohorts of roughly six to 12 students, with a possible exception of 15.

Their students will attend school in alternating cohort times, maintaining full academic days however reducing hours by limiting their physical education and fine arts programming.

The students and staff of The Fernie Academy are expected to practice physical distancing while in their learning groups, while also ensuring that students wear masks and teachers use face shields at all times.

“We foresee return to school as a collaborating event, and are counting on the whole community to participate,” said head of school, Jocelyn Sombrowski. “If everyone follows the same guidelines and we are all diligent and careful, we are mitigating risk.”

Though The Fernie Academy seeks to start running classes on September 1, their start date will not be confirmed by the Ministry of Education until August 26.

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