Schools getting familiar with new normal

SD73 released their plan on Aug. 26

School District No. 73 released their school re-start plan on Aug. 26. The six-page document went into detail about the sizes of learning groups and how the first week of school will look and was delivered in an email to parents and guardians, as well as posted on the SD73 website.

For the 2020/21 school year, classes will be full-time with a return to normal studies as the province moves into Stage 2 of the back-to-school plan — schools were operating on a hybrid format when classes resumed shortly in June.

Teachers are set to head back to the classroom next week to familiarize themselves with how the BCCDC guidelines will work in their school, allowing them to finalize plans for learning groups, review health and safety protocols and confirm lesson plans that align with the “new normal” in schools.

They will also be calling families directly to inform them of their child’s orientation day and provide information such as entrance and exit procedures and health and safety protocols.

The school district’s parents resource website page states, “The essential elements in the safe re-start of schools are: consistent groups of people; robust illness policies for students and staff; and the ability to have most people follow effective personal practices like hand washing.”

School principals also went back to school earlier than usual this year to ensure re-start plans were compliant with both provincial and district directions. Clearwater Secondary School principal Darren Coates said their school year usually starts about two weeks before the first school day, but cut the summer vacation a bit short to prepare for the year ahead.

“That’s been a little extra, but I always tell people, ‘First world problems,’” he said. “Still gainfully employed, I love my job. So those things are minor kinks in my summer plans, but I still had a great summer.”

Clearwater Secondary School will also be sending out detailed communication early next week through email and social media platforms that will further explain the protocols that will be in place for the school.

“We hope that when we share stuff next week, that parents will then have a really good idea of what it’s going to look like,” said Coates. “I think most folks, if they’re following the news, kinda know the broad strokes, that things are going to look different…but parents locally, and everywhere I’m sure, are curious about what some of the details actually look like in the school their kids go to, so we’re going to share those.”

Clearwater residents are lucky, he added, for a couple of reasons.

First, according to numbers released last week by the BCCDC, the North Thompson is one of a few areas in the province that has seen zero cases so far. This doesn’t mean we let our guards down, but to keep doing what we’re doing (wearing masks, washing hands, physical distancing) to keep the numbers low.

The other reason is Clearwater Secondary is an underutilized school, meaning it was built with bigger enrollment numbers in mind. This relates to teachers and staff having more room to work with when creating learning groups and distancing in classrooms.

“It’s really, really easy at this school to social distance,” said Coates. “We just have more room, it’s as easy as that.”

One aspect that will be a big change for many students is junior and senior students will be split up and will be in different parts of the school.

“Hopefully, it’ll be good for kids,” said Coates. “They’ll be back in the building, they’ll have face-to-face support from teachers.”

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