Communication from the Division
You will continue to receive weekly updates through the Superintendent about school start-up in August and early September. These weekly updates are designed to provide more details about programming, and the Guidebook will be revised as necessary to further address questions arising from families. Regular updates are posted on the Division’s website, our schools’ websites, and our official social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).
Communication from the School
Throughout the school year, you will receive a message from your school principal about orientations, classes, and any other important programming requirements at the school level. If there is a positive case of COVID-19 in your child’s school, your school principal will work directly with AHS and with Division Office staff using the most current COVID-19 in school settings to communicate with “close contacts.” In a school setting, close contacts are individuals that:
- provide direct care for an individual with COVID-19 or who had similar close physical contact, OR
- had close prolonged contact (i.e., for more than 15 minutes cumulative and within two metres) with a case, OR
- had direct contact with infectious body fluids of an individual with COVID-19 (i.e., was coughed or sneezed on).
The school principals will also provide notification to all staff and parents/legal guardians to inform the community about what is happening and next steps as soon as permitted by AHS.
Staggered Entry and Delayed Start
We have experienced a very successful school re-entry with staggered re-entry for K-9. Face-to-Face students began classes on Aug. 31, 2020 (for students who had last names beginning (A-K) and on Sept. 1, 2020 (for students who had the last names beginning L-Z). Regular classes began on Sept. 2, 2020 for K-9 face-to-face students.
Delayed Start for K-9 Online Students:
- Sept. 8, 2020: Online education classes for K-9 students began, which was a delayed start for these students.
- Aug. 28- Sept. 4, 2020:
- Online registrations have been confirmed with school principals.
- Evan Holstein, acting school principal of GSACRD Online Pathway will be available for questions about K-9 online education.
- Online teachers will contact parents to share details about school start-up (schedules, routines, where and how to access materials).
- Online students do not start school until Sept. 8, unless they are in high school.
- Pre-Kindergarten programs
- 31 – Sept. 4, 2020: Pre-Kindergarten Family Orientation Meetings – The teacher will contact the family to set up a time.
- 8 – 9, 2020: Staggered entry
- 10, 2020: All children attend school
Getting to School on the Bus
Before coming to school each day, all staff and students must complete the Alberta government’s COVID-19 Information Screening Questionnaire, which is available in multiple languages, to determine whether they can attend or must stay home. Students with COVID-19 symptoms or experiencing illness will not be permitted on the bus.
Because physical distancing is not possible on a bus, to help keep students and staff as safe as possible, the following protocols will be followed:
- students in Grades K–12 who are physically, psychologically, or developmentally able to wear a mask will be required to do so.
- students will practice physical distancing while at the bus stop and will line up two-metres apart.
- students will be assigned seats using a seating plan that limits close contact with others when possible.
- students will sit with members of the same household when possible.
- students will be taught and reminded of how to respect physical distancing.
- there will be a protective zone between the driver and student passengers, with no person seated in the seat directly behind the bus driver.
- the bus will be cleaned according to COVID-19 cleaning standards.
- high-contact areas will be cleaned throughout the day.
- deep clean of buses will be completed daily.
Arriving at School
All students will have an assigned door to use every time they enter and exit their school. When students arrive at school, they will:
- go to the area outside their assigned door
- follow physical distancing guidelines to stay at least two meters apart while they wait outside
- follow physical distancing guidelines to line up when it is time to enter the schooL
- wait for staff to bring them into the school
School staff will be outside to remind students of these requirements, and to help students line up and keep an appropriate distance from each other. Many schools will develop staggered entry schedules to limit how many students enter the school at once. This schedule may be slightly different from the regular bell schedule.
During extreme weather, such as severe cold or rain, schools will have a plan in place so students can enter the school early. Adults bringing students to school will be asked to stay in their vehicle or outside the school, and to maintain a safe physical distance between themselves and others. Those who need to enter the school must book an appointment with the school office. Individuals without an appointment will not be able to enter the school.
Signs and Arrows
Schools will use information on posters and on the floor (arrows/foot markers) to help students to maintain physical distancing within the school and to know which way to walk through the hallways.
Laminated signs will be displayed throughout the school as reminders to:
- Help Relaunch Safely
- Please do not enter, if…
- Self-screening Questionnaire
- How to wash your hands
- How to use hand sanitizer
- How to wear a face mask
- Practice physical distancing
- School closure
- Elevator safety
Lockers, Coat Hooks, and School Supplies
In the earlier versions of these guidelines, we recommended limiting students’ access to lockers and coat hooks due to distancing protocols and gathering restrictions. Newly revised guidelines from the Alberta Government envisage the potential of using coat hooks and lockers only when measures are in place to minimize crowding:
- spacing lockers/coat hooks out when possible and
- assigning lockers/coat hooks based on cohort/grade/class.
Because as we start school, it is difficult to ensure that crowding is easily minimized, school principals have worked with staff to have students bring what they need for the day and keep school supplies and textbooks in their backpacks or in storage solutions proposed by classroom teachers to minimize locker visits or the need to go to cubbies and coat hooks.
We continue to support teachers to direct the best way to store items, and, in consultation with the school principals, this guideline may change as health guidelines evolve or as protocols are developed to ensure that health measures can be met by accessing lockers and coat hooks.
Students’ personal supplies will be stored separately. Teachers will plan learning activities to reduce or minimize the need to share equipment, textbooks, or materials. If items are shared, they must be cleaned and disinfected after use. Students will wash or sanitize their hands both before and after using the shared items.
Washrooms and Common Areas
Washrooms will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day. There will be a maximum number of students permitted in the washroom at one time. Depending on the size of the school and the location of washrooms, schools may assign students to specific washrooms. Areas such as libraries and gymnasiums may be used as classrooms and this will be determined by the school principal. Gatherings will be discouraged in all common areas, and limitations placed on resource sharing to ensure that all health guidelines can be met.
Junior high and high schools will work with their school community to decide if students will be allowed to leave campus during lunch breaks. If students are permitted to leave the school building, they must:
- exit through their assigned door
- respect physical distancing and all other COVID-19 health protocols when off campus
- assess whether they have any symptoms of illness before they re-enter the school—students with newly developed symptoms will not be permitted to return to school
- re-enter the school through their assigned door
Additionally, high schools will need to determine if students may leave campus and return to the school building during a spare period. Schools will also need to identify a space or spaces in the school where students on spares can be accommodated while physical distancing.
Schools will not assign staff to supervise playground equipment before and after school. To support safety, this equipment will be off-limits to students. Parents/legal guardians who wish to take children to the playground at other times of the day are encouraged to follow the province’s Guidance for Playgrounds to use the equipment as safely as possible. School principals will review the guidance for playground use and decide whether to permit playground access during school hours.
Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten
Early childhood education is following many of the suggestions provided by the Government of Alberta’s Guidance for Daycare and Out-of-School Care. Like all classrooms, Pre-K and K classes focus on creating cohorts (a group of children and staff members assigned to them who stay together throughout the day). Multiple safety measures for young children will be in place, such as hand hygiene, cohorting and sub-cohorting, and physical distancing, as well as PPE, will be available to school personnel, such as a therapist, who is not part of the cohort.
Also, extra attention is paid to limiting interactions while waiting for parents at pick-up times and while students are waiting to enter school at drop-off times. These smaller groupings/sub-cohorts also spend time together at mealtimes, playtimes, and outdoor activities.
Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 9 Classes
In Pre-K-9, Pre-K-5, Pre-K-6, 5-8, and 7-9 schools, students will stay with their classroom as a cohort and teachers will travel to classrooms as much as reasonably possible. Core (English/French Language Arts, Math, Science, Social, Religion, Physical Education, and Health), and option courses will be offered by following Alberta Health guidelines.
For example, Foods in junior and senior high will be limited to students making and sharing their own equipment to make individual meals. Also, other options may continue as normal (Dance, Drama, Art, Photography, Sports Medicine, Outdoor Ed., FSL) by following all health guidelines in this handbook or that emerge. Construction will be limited based on how best to share and cleanse tools. Robotics will be limited to the number of students compared to kits so that there are no shared kits.
Grades 10, 11, and 12 Classes
In high schools, we will implement a quarterly schedule for all courses. This means that students will take core and option classes in a compressed schedule of Sept. – Nov., Nov. – Jan., Jan. – April, or April – June. The reason for this scheduling is to have students take part in fewer classes to maintain smaller cohorts. This will also maintain minimal disruption to writing diplomas and completing high school programming if schools are required to switch between scenarios one, two, and/or three.
Grade 3 Student Learning Assessments will be optional. Grades 6 and 9 Provincial Achievement Tests will not be administered. Diploma Exams continue to be mandatory. Diploma schedules will be communicated by your school. All diploma exams will be offered every quarter.
Respectful Inclusive Supported Education (RISE) Anchor Programs (Jr./Sr. High Schools) and Inclusive Education
To support children and students in attaining the goals as stated in the Ministerial Order on Student Learning, school authorities must ensure that all children and students (Kindergarten to Grade 12), regardless of race, religious belief, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, family status, sexual orientation, or any other factor(s), have access to meaningful and relevant learning experiences
that include appropriate instructional supports.
Our RISE program students learn together in an inclusive context in which they will come to school as a cohort (the same students with the same staff) every day. Students will continue to take part in classes face-to-face unless those students choose online education. Students will access resources virtually (e.g., Google Classroom) to ensure that they have the necessary medical care, when needed, and targeted and individualized support to meet their personalized educational goals. Staff who work with RISE students closer than 2 metres will be provided with masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns, to be used according to provincial guidelines.
For students who have diverse learning needs, returning to school can cause additional concern or anxiety. We are taking steps to support students, which include:
- working with Alberta Health Services on COVID-19 safety protocols for some of the complex medical interventions and supports that some students require, to keep both students and staff as safe as possible.
- applying COVID-19-specific strategies to Individual Program Plans (IPPs), Individual Care Plans or Individual Student Behaviour Plans.
- addressing effective learning strategies for online learning in IPPs.
Students’ academic, social, emotional, behavioral specialized supports and services were assessed when making decisions about supporting all students in face-to-face and online programming. Phone calls were made to families who may have selected online programming and who needed access to specialized services and supports. If you have questions about inclusive programming and supports and services, please contact your school principal and/or the Division’s Director of Early Education and Learning Support Services at 780-459-7711. More information about how we’re supporting students with diverse learning needs during COVID-19 will be available in school and division communications, including this guidebook, as we move forward. School principals and Division staff will work with families who have specific questions about school re-entry.
IB and AP Exams
IB and AP exams will continue to be administered in May 2021. IB and AP courses will be offered according to when it is possible based on school staffing and scheduling requirements. Some considerations may be off-schedule times (lunch, after class). Teachers who teach an AP or IB course will have certain courses scheduled in certain quarters that each school will communicate to AP and IB students. Teachers will follow up off-schedule to work with students to be prepared for exams in May.
St. Gabriel Education Centre
At the regular Board Meeting on Aug. 31, 2020, our board resolved to rename St. Gabriel Catholic High School to St. Gabriel Education Centre, which coordinates our newly established K-9 online learning pathway. At this centre, high school students who may need greater flexibility than a quarterly schedule provides will choose to take their courses in quarters, semesters, or as a full-year program, based on conversations with teachers and the acting school principal. Students will have access to diploma exams every quarter.
Physical Education, Extracurricular Activities, and Athletics
Schools will continue to provide physical education instruction. The provincial government’s plan indicates that the delivery of programming outside is most desirable, and activities that support physical distancing, such as badminton, are recommended. AHS has reviewed our approach to keeping students in subgroups within our classes and using equipment with attention to all cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing protocols. Schools will only evaluate whether they can offer extracurricular activities that follow COVID-19 protocols, and will let families know which activities are available. Extracurricular activities and athletics will comply with all guidance from AHS and the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association (ASAA), as applicable.
Our Division will not run high school athletics’ practices in any sport until at least November 1, 2020, at which time we will review whether and how to proceed with high school athletics based on AHS’ guidelines. Please contact your child(ren)’s high school principal to ask about specific information regarding high school athletics as these programs will be updated as health protocols emerge. More information will be provided in future updates to this Parent Guidebook, as the situation changes and more details are available.
If your child is registered in Sports Academy (Hockey, Soccer, Gym/Cheer/Dance, or Recreation), he/she will participate in these programs with modified programming that meets safety measures of the guidelines of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and Alberta Health at the respective school sites. Off-site activities will not run until at least Oct. 1, 2020. If your child is in a High School Academy, or if you have an interest in registering for Sports/Recreation Academy, please contact Geoff Giacobbo, Sports Academy Consultant.
With recently updated guidelines for music, band may offer opportunities for playing instruments:
- in a space where band students could be physically distanced on all sides (e.g. gymnasium, outside), band classes may be considered.
- wind instruments may require special consideration and/or extra distancing.
- shared instruments should not be used unless they can be fully cleaned and disinfected between students.
- chairs and music stands should be cleaned and disinfected between uses.
Singing and playing wind instruments must not occur unless it is possible to adhere to the following guidelines:
- Singers should be staggered so they are not directly behind one another.
- Performers should not directly face other performers while singing.
- Exercises such as lip and tongue rolls or trills should be avoided as they generate an increased volume of droplets.
- Consider putting a disposable foam microphone windscreen over vocal microphones.
- Wind instrument musicians must use a mask on their instrument’s bell. See the guidance for musical instruments found on Alberta Biz Connect.
- Singers and wind instrument musicians should maintain a minimum of 2 metres distance from other performers at all times.
- Non-singing, non-wind instrument musicians (e.g. drummer, bassist, keyboardist) may use physical barriers such as plexiglass between them if 2 metres distancing is not possible.
Activities that involve the sharing of food between students are suspended until further notice. Classes that teach food preparation may occur as long as students do not share the food they prepare with other students or staff.
For lunches and snacks:
- No Skip-the Dishes or food services (e.g., hot lunches) will be available in schools.
- Food provided by the family should be stored with the student’s belongings.
- Students/children should practice physical distancing while eating.
- There should be no common food items (e.g., salt and pepper shakers, ketchup).
- If families forget to send lunch, you will need to contact the office to arrange to drop off the lunch as opposed to walking through the school to the student’s classroom.
Please help by discussing these measures with your child(ren) before the start of school.
Field trips that require students to ride a bus are currently postponed, in keeping with provincial guidelines. The status of such field trips will be reviewed as provincial guidelines continue to evolve. All international, provincial, and local field trips that require travel are suspended but will be reviewed as chief medical officers of health adjust recommendations about traveling between provinces (learn more about Alberta’s COVID-19 travel restrictions). Virtual field trips, in-class/classroom field trips, and physically distanced community walking trips that follow COVID-19 health and safety protocols are permitted.
Assemblies and Special Events
Gatherings that bring multiple cohorts of students together are not permitted at this time. This includes such things as performances, book fairs, guest speakers, school dances, in-person meet-the-teacher events, and group fundraisers like bike-a-thons. Virtual assemblies may be held within the school community. This year’s READ IN Week event will be limited to school staff reading with students and virtual guest readers.
School Council Meetings
School council meetings for the 2020–2021 school year may go ahead as long as they meet Alberta Health restrictions for social gatherings as well as the safety protocols and expectations of the Chief Medical Officer and Division health guidelines. School principals will support their school council members to determine if they will hold in-person meetings and/or online virtual meetings. Any in-person meeting must adhere to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Schools will decide if they will use the learning commons or school library space as instructional space. Schools that decide to use this space for instruction must follow COVID-19 strategies that support physical distancing. These spaces will be cleaned and disinfected between each cohort of students. If the libraries/learning commons are used to share resources, a protocol will be reviewed to loan materials that will be in keeping with COVID-19 health measures.
Supporting Mental Health and Well-being
In our Division, we provide all students with access to school counselors. Please contact your school principal if your child experiences signs of mental duress or requires proactive support to have a successful schooling experience. Also, parents/legal guardians who are concerned for their child(ren)’s well-being can reach out to these community resources:
- Kids Help Phone
Text CONNECT to 68686
- Alberta Health Services
- Health Link
- Alberta Education Help-line and email service
- 422.6548 (toll-free: 310.0000, followed by the nine-digit phone number)
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- This service provides support to parents/legal guardians of students, particularly those requiring specialize supports, during COVID-19 and at-home learning.
- 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.
- Hope for Wellness Help Line