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Catholic school board to test safety measures ahead of school year

The chair of the Grande Prairie & District Catholic Schools Board is cautiously optimistic that the proper plans will be in place when it comes to schools reopening in September. On Tuesday, the province announced that students across Alberta will be returning to in-class studies under what it’s calling a “Scenario 1”, which is near-normal daily operations with additional health measures.

Chair Michael Ouelette says they’ve been expecting that announcement for some time, and they’ve already added a new member of staff to lead the charge against COVID-19. However, there is a concern when it comes to dollars.

“We have already put in place a senior administrator who will be in charge of COVID-19 for us, so we will have one person who will be the lead for COVID-19 in our schools, and I think that’s fabulous… It’s the difficulty we are having with our budgets being so tight; that is something we have to watch.”

Ouelette says from an administrative standpoint, he believes they’re in good shape, but with a finite amount of space in each room, and no cap on students per class, they could run into issues.

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“Those classrooms can be quite small, and I think the teachers are trying to figure out how they’re going to do this. I’ve heard that it’s going to be very difficult, and I think we are going to look at each scenario as it comes up and see how we can do a better job of taking care of the children.”

He suggests the board is willing to go one further and do a dry run in a number of schools, to see how health and safety measures will stack up.

“We are looking at being picked up by buses, so we can go walk through every step that these children are going to go through. Show up at a school, I’ll be in Grade 4 or 5, I’ll go through this door, and this is how it’s all going to work.”

The Alberta Government says schools will be provided with updated health measures on hygiene and health requirements, student learning, transportation, diploma exams, and mental health supports for students and staff.

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