Classes are back in session throughout School District No. 74, and while some things are the same as last year, there are changes that will hopefully make the 2021/22 school year more like normal than the last one.
“Last year we learned how to function with COVID-19 in our world in a healthy way,” says SD74 superintendent Teresa Downs. “Thanks to families, students, staff, and the communities, we only had three cases of COVID in district schools last year, all in the final week.”
Several protocols that were initiated last year remain in place this year. Daily health checks are required for all staff and students, and they must stay home if they show signs of illness. All staff and visitors are required to wear masks (although there are certain conditions which will exempt a person from mask requirements), and all students in Grades 4 through 12 are required to wear masks while inside the school building or on buses.
There will be no sharing of food and drink, and congestion within schools all be minimized. All district schools will remain closed for community user groups.
However, a number of protocols have changed, which will mean a more normal school year. Students will no longer be in learning groups or cohorts; instead, they will be able to learn, interact, and play with their peers. They can once again use cubbies and lockers for their personal belongings, physical distancing is no longer required, and buses will not have seating plans.
Classrooms will also look different, with the return of many items — such as rugs, play tables, and manipulatives — that had to be removed last year.
“Students will be able to play at tables and have things like playdough again,” says Downs, “and we can have furniture back in the entranceways. Last year it was understandable that we had to remove these things, but it made the schools cold and stark. Now we can welcome people back, and we’re glad to have the flexibility.”
Downs notes that on Sept. 1, Interior Health came out with three recommendations which will be in place throughout the district starting on Sept. 7. Indoor assemblies are limited to 50 people or two classes (whichever is larger) in a single space; visitors entering the school are limited to people supporting activities that benefit the students (such as meal program volunteers); and there will be a limit of 50 spectators for indoor sports or tournaments (100 spectators if the event is held outdoors).
“I hope these restrictions put in place by Interior Health are short-lived,” says Downs. Parents and caregivers will be informed when these measures can be removed.
“Last year we learned how to do our work in a safe way while maintaining health and safety,” says Downs. “This year is about teaching and learning and giving students what they need for a successful school year.”
To view the School District No. 74 COVID-19 Communicable Disease Plan, and the letter from Interior Health, go to https://bit.ly/3n7yiUa; you can also check your school’s website for back to school information.