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School resumes in B.C. on Monday. This is what things will look like

Anticipating return to in-class instruction in B.C.
Anticipating return to in-class instruction in B.C.

It’s a return to school like none the province has seen before.

On Monday thousands of kids will go back to school for the first time since before spring break in March.

Classrooms, gymnasiums, libraries and hallways will look different district-to-district and even school-to-school. But there will be many similarities across the province in terms of what schools are doing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

WorkSafeBC has provided a list of guidelines for schools to follow.

Each district has made it’s own decisions based on the WorkSafe guidelines, so every school will look a little different.

WorkSafe has not mandated students to physically distance at all times nor has the province required anyone in a school setting to wear a mask.

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READ MORE: Here’s how B.C. plans to reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Start times

In some schools, the morning bell won’t really be the morning bell for the month of June.

Based on the number of kids returning some districts will stagger the beginning of the school day.

In those cases the student will be notified by their teacher when to arrive to school. The start of the day will be different in order to ease the normal congestion at the beginning and end of the school day.

Entering the school

Parents are being asked to stay out of the school building.

WorkSafeBC is suggesting schools conduct a daily health check at drop-off by asking parents and caregivers to confirm their child does not have symptoms of common cold, influenza, COVID-19, or other respiratory disease.

The suggestion is students clean hands after entering the school.

Students will be required to physically distance while waiting in line to enter the school.

Many school will have markings to show kids where to stand. In most cases kids will be brought in one at a time to clean hands before heading into their classroom.

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B.C. premier reassures parents about return to school
B.C. premier reassures parents about return to school

Isolation Rooms and feeling sick

If a student starts to feel sick at school with COVID-19-like symptoms they will in some cases be brought to an isolation room.

Parents or guardians will be expected to pick up a sick child as quickly as possible.

Schools are reminding kids if they are not feeling well they should not come to school.

Waiting areas, hallways and office space

Office areas will be closed to students and parents in most schools. In some cases there may be plexiglass barriers installed to help to prevent transmission between staff, students and teachers.

There will be a new areas for students to sign in if they are late.

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The waiting areas will, in most classes, have chairs and tables removed in order to allow more space for physical distancing. To remind students how to physical distance there will be floor markings spread out by six feet in most schools.

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Some schools have closed off some stairwells and have implemented one way travel through hallways.

Health care officials release new COVID-19 numbers, talk school and summer activities
Health care officials release new COVID-19 numbers, talk school and summer activities

Entering the classroom

In most cases students will need to wash their hands again when entering the classroom. There will be many students who no longer have access to their lockers, and who will be asked to bring their knapsacks with them to their desk.

Kids must go directly to their assigned seat.

Physical Distancing

The reality is kids can’t keep 6 feet apart at all times. WorkSafeBC has established very specific guidelines on how to encourage students to keep distant.

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WorkSafe is advising kids to avoid close greetings like hugs or handshakes and remind students to keep their hands to themselves when possible.

Teachers and staff are being advised to consider using educational videos and online programs as a part of learning so young students can sit independently and distanced from each other.

WorkSafe is suggesting teachers teach classes outside when possible.

Individual activities are being encouraged over group ones. For younger students, group activities with lower physical contact are being suggested over group activities with high levels of contact.

For adolescent students, minimize group activities and avoid activities that require physical contact.

When students are together, WorkSafe is advising them to be in smaller groups that stay together throughout the day.

The school community is being asked to minimize the number of different teachers and educational assistants a group of students interacts with.

The classroom

The way the classroom looks and operates will be very different than pre-COVID.

The biggest difference will be the desks will be spread apart.

There is no specific guidelines from WorkSafeBC on how far a desk may be apart and in some cases 6 feet apart is impossible. The spreading out of desks and work areas is to encourage physical distance as best as kids can.

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Every students must have their own supplies including pencils, crayons, glue sticks and scissors. There will be no sharing of supplies.

Kids are being asked to bring a water bottle to their desk. There will be stations where students can re-fill water bottles. The water fountains will be closed in most cases.

Students will be reminded not to wander across the classroom to get a pencil sharpened or get a book. Whenever a student leaves or enters the classroom they must wash their hands.

Kids can’t bring toys from home into the class. If they do they must remain in their bag. There will not be play-based learning in most classes.

Many schools will be removing carpets from the classroom.

In some cases bookshelves will be covered and kids will not have access to the shared toys or books.

In some cases students will be allowed to share books.

One big adjustment for kids in most grades is they will spend more time in one desk or one space than they did before COVID-19.

Enhanced cleaning

School districts will be required to ensure enhanced cleaning in schools. This will include in most cases double wipe downs of high-touch areas. These high-touch areas include doors and cabinet handles, stair railings, washrooms, shared office spaces, desks, keyboards, light switches, and communications devices.

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There will be a deep clean overnight of the entire school.

Back to school concerns for B.C. elementary students
Back to school concerns for B.C. elementary students

Lunch Time

Students will eat at their desk and lunch time breaks will be staggered. There will be no sharing of food between students. Kids will, in many cases, will need to bring garbage from their lunch back home with them.

WorkSafeBC is recommending students wash hands before and after eating or drinking. Recommendations also include washing or scrubbing all fruits and vegetables with cold, running, potable tap water before consuming them.

All parent-provided food items will be placed in a designated, delineated and freshly sanitized tabletop/countertop area labelled “Incoming Food” upon arrival.

Bathrooms

In some districts there will only be one person in the bathroom at a time even if the bathroom has multiple stalls. This policy will vary school to school.

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Students will need permission from the teacher to go to the bathroom and must wait outside six feet from the door if the washroom is being used.

Masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry is not making masks mandatory for teachers, staff or students. But anyone who wants to wear a non-medical mask is being encouraged to do so.

Teachers can put on a mask if a student is wearing a mask to make them more comfortable.

Outdoor Play

Like arrivals to school, recess will be staggered to limit the number of kids playing outside at the same time. In some cases the playgrounds will be open while in other school districts the playgrounds will remain closed.

Students are being asked at some schools to bring something to play with outside such as balls or hula hoops. Those are not to be shared with other kids.

WorkSafeBC is asking schools to consider teaching classes outside when practicable.

Online petition started to keep B.C. schools closed until September 2020
Online petition started to keep B.C. schools closed until September 2020

Split classes

School will be voluntary and part-time.

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It depends on the district, but most K-to-5 kids will be back in the classroom twice a week.

Many schools have separated classes alphabetically with half of of the kids back twice a week, and the other half back two other days in the week.

Gyms, libraries and music rooms

It will depend school to school but in some cases gyms, libraries, music rooms and other shared spaces will be closed to students.

School buses

In some school districts there will be no school buses running.

For the districts where buses are running, bus drivers must clean and disinfect the high touch areas of the bus at the start of their shift and after drop offs.

Buses used for transporting students should be cleaned and disinfected according the guidance provided in the BC CDC’s Cleaning and Disinfectants for Public Settings document.

Students are being encouraged to sit in their own seat wherever possible, students from the same household can share seats if space is limited.