Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) held a division-wide virtual town hall on Aug. 17 via their YouTube channel, addressing the concerns of parents and guardians of children heading back to school next month.
Superintendent Jayson Lovell reviewed the division’s school re-entry plan before fielding pre-submitted questions and then took a few questions from comments during the live event.
“We know that our students, our parents, our school division — we’re all anxious about the return to school,” said Lovell.
Lovell says one of the most important things parents can do to ensure a safe re-entry for students is to carefully monitor symptoms at home and daily screenings so children aren’t sent to school with symptoms.
Lovell also asked that all parents and guardians to have conversations with their children regarding the changes they will experience in school.
“The more we can do to prepare and address and alleviate those concerns, the anxiousness will decrease, so we absolutely need your help to encourage that conversation and to facilitate that in your home.
If a child becomes symptomatic during school hours, they will be isolated and must be picked up immediately.
“We just want to say thank you in advance for your support in that important item,” he said, adding he knows that poses a difficulty for some with work schedules.
“Student and staff safety will be the most important focus of our school division.”
Symptoms not related to a pre-existing condition will be are required by Alberta Health to self-isolate for 10 days.
If a child becomes ill in class, that child will be required to self-isolate, but not the rest of the class.
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, then Alberta Health Services (AHA) will become involved.
Other siblings of that child will only have to self isolate if they are also exhibiting symptoms.
Beyond 10 days, the virtual learning program can be a support for students and families that require more than 10 days away from school.
School pickup/drop off
Parents are free to make arrangements to pick up children not in their families and do not need to notify the school of those arrangements, however, Alberta Health Services recommends limits on cohort families.
Parents are asked to stay in their vehicles and to communicate with their child about where they will be parked at pick up times.
Face masks will be mandatory for students in Grades 4 to 12 in situations where physical distancing of two metres is not possible.
For classes over 30 students, that amount of distancing won’t be possible and masks would be required. They will also be required in hallways and on school buses.
Extra time between bus stops, to ensure students are wearing masks before entering the bus, has been planned for.
“We also have faith in our students and our drivers to work together to make sure our buses will be safe.”
There will be staggered breaks and recesses to try to limit the number of students on playgrounds at a given time, as well as increased supervision and monitoring. Zones for playing are also being considered.
Physical distancing of two metres will be adhered to when possible, and when students are closer than two metres apart, masks will be worn.
Those parents wishing to either do homeschooling or hybrid learning (a mix of virtual and in-person learning) will be able to transition to full-time in-person learning at any time throughout the school year.
The division hired two full-time teachers to facilitate virtual learning in June and have been working over the summer to develop the virtual learning program.
A recent survey sent out indicated that quite a few parents are interested in the virtual learning program.
The board made decisions about teacher allocations back in the spring, designed to support in-school regular classroom instruction.
“We do not have a pool of teachers outside of that, that we can redeploy to the virtual learning program at this time,” said Lovell, adding that it will take some time to get accurate student numbers and the situation may change.
“It is possible there could be some adjustments made so it’s a very fluid situation and we’re hopeful that we will have a more clarity and more understanding of the populations of all of our programs as we start up the school year.”
What sports will be offered will be up to each individual school, but safety is the focus. The division will make a firm decision on sports by Aug. 31.
The Government of Alberta announced on July 21 that schools will be re-entering under Scenario One, which is school as normal with additional health measures. WCPS and other school districts don’t have the authority to operate under a different scenario than directed by the government.
Provincial achievement exams
In WCPS, students will not be required to write provincial achievement exams this year.
The video of the town hall and answers to all the questions asked have been posted on wolfcreek.ab.ca under the frequently asked questions section.
Resources for speaking with children about COVID-19 are also listed on each school’s website.