In preparation for the fall 2020 school start amid an ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Fraser Cascade schools have created individualized plans which have students coming back to school full-time this September.
The plans detail how the cohort structure will work, how handwashing and other health and safety measures will be implemented, how lunch and breaks will be organized and more (see PDFs below). The school district is undertaking this planning as they survey families to see how many will be sending their children back to school this fall.
For superintendent Balan Moorthy, having children come back to school is the right answer. It’s a balance, he said, between the risk of the coronavirus and the negative impacts of the pandemic on children and families.
It is about comparing the 5,200 COVID-19 cases in B.C. out of a population of 5 million, as well as what is known about the risk the virus presents to children, with the “mental health issues of children, of families, domestic violence that’s occuring…the opioid crisis that is just exponentially increased, the economic hardships, the fact that kids aren’t learning, they’re not with their friends,” Moorthy said. “So you start to go, OK, the scale is really tipping here.”
Moorthy confirmed the Ministry of Education has approved the district’s plans as of Wednesday, Aug. 26.
SD78 schools will follow a cohort model, meaning students will be separated into groups of up to 60 for students in Kindergarten to Grade 7 and up to 120 for students in Grades 8 to 12. The fall school days at SD78 schools will follow very similar hours to regular school days, with some changes to stagger lunches and breaks.
As much as possible, students will be kept in a single cohort with the same teacher or teachers staying with them. Some exceptions will occur, for example Hope Secondary School’s Grade 10 to 12 woodworking class will include students from multiple cohorts. In this case, students will need to practice physical distancing the high school’s plan stated.
Teachers who need to move between cohorts will have to wear a mask, use physical distancing and other safety protocols. “Within the timetable, they’re trying their hardest to even limit that,” Moorthy said.
School plans get granular, detailing which doors students should use to enter and exit school buildings. Student movement is also restricted compared to normal times, Moorthy said, this includes limited or no access to lockers, restricted access to hallways and parts of school playgrounds designated for certain cohorts.
Hope Secondary is to be a ‘closed campus’, meaning students will have to stay at school even during the lunch hour, foregoing DQ runs and other jaunts off-campus during the school day. The Two Rivers Education Centre is also strongly encouraging students to remain in the building throughout the day – if outdoor breaks are needed, students are to use an appointed outdoor area.
The focus on hygiene to combat COVID-19 is present in all school plans. Students at Coquihalla Elementary School, for example, will wash their hands when they enter the classroom, as well as during each ‘transition’ including recess, lunch and before they head home. For students in high schools, sanitizer stations will be set up and should be used when they enter and exit the building.
For the middle and high school grades, masks will be required for students and staff in “high traffic areas” as per provincial regulations. For Hope Secondary students, this includes hallways and any other common areas of the school, which will mean students have to come to school wearing a mask until they start their first class. “Of course, students may wear a mask in all of their classes if they so choose,” the Hope Secondary letter stated.
How exactly bussing will look is still up in the air, Moorthy said, as this depends on the numbers of students returning in September. Families who can are being encouraged to organize transportation of their children to school, as the TREC letter stated.
Some school plans have detailed bus procedures, for example Boston Bar Elementary Secondary School students will conduct a staggered exit off the bus from front to back, with students who arrive by other means waiting in or near their vehicles until they are called upon to enter the school building.
School staff are connecting with families this week to see about their readiness to send their children back, and gathering their feedback on the plans. Moorthy said the majority they’ve heard from want their children to come back, yet the district does not yet have final numbers in hand.
Individual school plans for all SD78 schools can be found below:
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