Update: School re-entry

Update - Aug. 4, 2020

> > > Download: Superintentendent's Update: Aug. 6, 2020

When classes resume this fall, mask use will be mandatory for all staff, as well as all students in grades 4 through 12, where physical distancing (two metres) cannot be maintained. Masks will be optional for students in Kindergarten through Grade 3.

The Hon. Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education, and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, made the announcement on Aug. 4, 2020.

> > > Watch: Provincial updates on school re-entry and COVID-19 – Aug. 4, 2020

Students will be required to wear masks in all shared and common areas, such as hallways and on buses. Exemptions will be made for students and staff who are unable to wear a mask due to medical or other needs.

The province announced several updates to its School Re-entry Plan:

* The province will provide 2 reusable masks to each student, teacher, and staff at no cost to schools or the division. 

* School staff will receive 1 reusable face shield for their use in the schools to use at their discretion. A mask must still be worn while wearing a face shield.

* The Alberta government will distribute hand sanitizer to schools in the province.

* Each school will receive 2 contactless thermometres.

* Alberta Health Services is working hard to expand testing capacity and reduce turnaround times for testing, including in students, teachers, and school staff.

Provincial health guidance for a safe return to school will continue to evolve as necessary to reflect the latest evidence on the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

GSACRD has developed a school re-entry plan that meets the needs of its faith-and-learning community. These plans are based on direction provided under the provincial school re-entry plan and supporting health guidance documents, recommendations from Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, and feedback from our students, parents/guardians, and staff.

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Update: July 21, 2020

Schools across Alberta will resume with near normal operations (in-school instruction, with health measures in place) at the beginning of the new school year. Premier Jason Kenney and the Minister of Education, The Hon. Adriana LaGrange, made the announcement on July 21.

> > > Watch: Provincial updates on school re-entry and COVID-19 – July 21, 2020

This decision is one of three scenarios that the Alberta government considered in its school re-entry plan, which offers guidance on a wide range of operational issues and is informed by both Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy and expert advice from the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools is developing its own comprehensive school re-entry plan, as noted below, in response to this decision and in accordance with the directions of the Alberta government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health. This plan will also incorporate the invaluable feedback from our students, parent/legal guardians, and staff through the extensive re-entry consultation surveys the Division conducted in June.

The safety of our students, parents/legal guardians, staff, and visitors is our top priority and has been incorporated into our protocols to meet Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) guidelines. Our staff are developing plans for physical distancing, cohorting (keeping, as much as possible, the same students and staff together), proper hand hygiene, cleaning and sanitizing, and all other required safety measures, in order to provide the safest environment possible for our community.

We continue to work collaboratively – internally and with other school divisions, provincial and municipal governments, and our faith-and-learning community (students, parents/guardians, and staff) – in developing a successful school re-entry plan.

For important information regarding school re-entry, please read the safety protocols as noted below that will be further detailed, as required, in August. 

If you require clarification or have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to your child’s school directly. We look forward to welcoming students back to school this fall.

 

SCHOOL RE-ENTRY - SAFETY PROTOCOLS

Illness
This daily Screening Questionnaire supports parents/legal guardians in determining if their child is well enough to attend school. Parents/legal guardians are asked to use this checklist every day before sending their child(ren) to school or on the bus. If a child is sick, do not send him/her to school. If a child gets sick during the day, staff will notify parents/legal guardians immediately to pick the child up from school. While waiting for pick up, the child will be isolated from others and expected to wear a mask (when feasible). Schools will ensure that emergency contact lists are up to date, and that one of those contacts is available to pick up a child if the parent/legal guardian is not available.

If a child is ill, parents/legal guardians will be asked to use AHS’ Online Self-Assessment Tool to determine whether or not to proceed with a COVID-19 test. AHS considers two diagnosed people in a class to be an outbreak. We will follow all AHS requirements for notifying other parents/legal guardians should an outbreak happen.

Cleaning and personal protective equipment
Enhanced cleaning in all schools will take place throughout the day, especially doors, light switches, and other frequently touched surfaces. Staff will wear face shields and masks, when necessary. There may be times when a child needs to wear a mask (i.e., if physical distancing isn’t possible or if he/she becomes ill), so parents/legal guardians may choose to send a mask with their children to school. Students will be required to wash or sanitize their hands before entering and upon leaving classrooms as well as other times during the day. Hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout the schools, especially where sinks are not close by


Cohorts
Where possible, we will keep students and staff in similar groupings or “cohorts” to enable AHS to conduct contact-tracing should an outbreak occur. Seating plans will be in place for each class.


Movement through the school and locker use
We will minimize the number of students in hallways/common areas by using staggered breaks and by directing students to enter and exit through specific doors when they have breaks. Lockers may not be available – students will bring their backpacks into their classrooms and will keep their belongings with them.


Technology
Students will need access to technology regardless of the scenario that will be implemented. To reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, the number of students accessing school-owned devices (e.g., ChromeBooks) while in school will be limited, and all devices will be cleaned frequently. Parents/legal guardians may choose to provide their children with their own devices.


Yellow bus transportation
New safety measures will be in place on all yellow buses. Seating plans will be developed for each route, with siblings seated together when possible. To reduce contact among students, those entering the bus first will proceed to the back; those last to board will sit near the front. High-contact points on buses will be wiped down frequently. As physical distancing may not be feasible on buses, parents/legal guardians may choose to have their children wear a mask that they provide.


Libraries and textbook usage
Where possible, we will rely on digital textbooks, e-books, and other online learning resources. School learning commons will be set up to encourage physical distancing and may not yet be open to students when they return for the new school year. More information will be provided in the Fall.


Field trips
Field trips will be limited to local, low-risk locations.


Playgrounds
We will monitor and adhere to all AHS guidelines for access to playgrounds and for proper hygiene in playgrounds.


Recesses/lunches/cafeterias/vending machines
Students will be encouraged to stay at school for lunch. During breaks (recesses/lunches), cafeterias will either be closed or will only offer pre-packaged foods that can be served safely by our staff. As food options will be limited, children are to bring their own lunches and snacks to school. Microwaves will not be available, so students should use their own thermoses for hot food or bring lunches and snacks that do not need to be warmed up. Vending machines will not operate next year.


High schools – four quarters
Instead of the traditional two-semester system, we will switch to a four-quarter system in the Fall. This will allow students to still take their full complement of core and option courses, while making cohorting easier. It will also enable smoother transitions between scenarios should the province make changes to how education is delivered.


Limited visitor access to schools
Only staff, students, and families will be permitted in our schools. Volunteers (including parent/legal guardian volunteers) and other visitors will have limited access until further notice.


Next steps
GSACRD will be ready for whatever direction and guidelines the province mandates.Updates concerning our relaunch plan will be posted on both the division website and all schools’ websites, as well as shared through our official social media platforms.


MORE INFORMATION

Just as the Division will continue to follow and implement the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and all levels of government, we encourage you to do the same. You can find credible and relevant health and safety information, as well as important updates about COVID-19, as follows:


QUESTIONS?
We will continue to keep our faith and learning community informed. Feel free to reach out to your child’s school directly if you require clarification or have any questions or concerns.

Posted: August 4, 2020