Students and parents can expect to see much stricter protocols when it comes to how students get to-and-from school and how classes will operate throughout the pandemic. The Grande Prairie Catholic School District is focussing on establishing social distancing, traffic management, and sanitization methods to keep students as safe as possible, as the school season rapidly approaches.
District trustees toured what the new system and protocols will look like for students on Monday, offering an insight into what might need adjustment before students are welcomed back in September.
Superintendent of Schools Karl Germann says the district is ready for students and staff to return, though there are still some kinks he believes need to be worked out, including how students are able to board and unload from busses and arrange themselves into class in the morning.
“We disrespect the social distancing more often than I thought we would, whether it was on the bus, or lining up at school, or in the classroom,” he says.
He adds the current idea is to have students line up with 6 feet between them as often as possible, and essentially drill that routine into them.
“How we line people up all the time and doing that over a period of time, I think in a couple of days we’ll have that routine down with kids. We were very much like kids and we weren’t necessarily ready for the exact routine of coming on a bus, coming off a bus, [or] going into a classroom.”
The wearing of masks will be mandatory when loading onto a school bus, during travel, unloading, and in transfer zones. Seating will be assigned and students taking the bus will be monitored as they get on and off via an assigned card. They will be loaded back to front and unloaded the opposite way, and eating will not be allowed.
If a rider forgets their mask, one will be provided, but if they forget their pass, a parent or guardian will have to deliver it, or, dependent on their age, the student will either be turned away; or if the student is too young to be unattended, they will be bussed to school regardless, simply for their own safety. The parents would subsequently be contacted about the incident.
At school, students will line up outside designated doors in their learning groups before being allowed into the building. Arrows will be displayed on the floors to direct traffic, and masks will also be mandatory while inside the school with the exception of eating times. Food can’t be shared, and microwaves won’t be available.
Germann says class sizes will remain the same, though some instructors will focus their efforts on online learning.
“We have the staffing resources for online learning; we wouldn’t have the staffing resources to move to lower class sizes, not in Grande Prairie for sure,” he says.
“There just isn’t the capacity. We saw when British Columbia lowered their class sizes, how much of an impact it put on the entire Canadian teacher supply for a couple of years.”
He adds that all teachers will be prepared to switch to an online learning platform should there be an outbreak of COVID-19 in a school or the province moves to Scenario 2 or 3.