Heading back to school during the coronavirus pandemic will look different for students, teachers and parents.
When classrooms reopen in September, there will be new safety guidelines put into place to ensure staff and students are safe.
The guidelines were released on Thursday by the government of Saskatchewan, giving school divisions just over two months to implement them before pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 students return to the classroom.
The guidelines were crafted from jurisdictions around the world that have reopened schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
They include cleaning and sanitization protocols along with measures for general operations, facilities, transportation and programming.
“They reinforce that the risk is low for school children, and the way the guidelines are laid out will enable more or less normal resumption of school with some extra attention to handwashing, not going to school if you’re sick and some caution…around large assembly events,” Shahab said.
Below is a glimpse of what students and families can expect:
- Students will have to wash their hands and, where possible, students and staff should have their own personal Health Canada-approved hand sanitizer.
- Masks and eye protection are not required unless staff are in contact with a sick student.
- The government says maintaining physical distance for younger children is less practical and the focus will be on minimizing physical contact instead.
- Handshakes, hugs and other close greetings will be avoided, but air-fives and waves are encouraged.
- Younger children will learn about physical distancing through games
- There will be staggered entry into classrooms and staggered recess/snack, lunch and class transition times to maintain more space between people.
- Pickups and drop offs will be limited to one parent or guardian.
- Groups of students and staff assigned to them will stay together throughout the day, with no mixing of people allowed.
- School division administrators and staff will use phone and video-conferencing to meet with staff and parents.
- Plans for extracurricular activities and other gatherings will be developed in consultation with the chief medical health officer once the group/gathering capacity limits for fall 2020 are known.
- Students could be assigned seats. Students in the same household will be seated together.
- Partitions around drivers are being considered.
- Buses will be cleaned and sanitized following each run.
- Recreational travel for field trips will not be happening.
- Parents are encouraged to drive their kids to school and pick them up if possible.
Limiting shared materials and equipment
- Toys will be reduced or removed, individual play encouraged.
- Classroom activities and recess will not include items that can be touched by multiple students.
- Food and drinks won’t be shared.
- Barriers may be installed to promote physical distancing
- Signage and adequate hand soap will be in each building, along with disinfectant wipes.
- Mingling in bathrooms will not be allowed.
All health and safety measures will also be in place for students with intensive needs, and those who need mental health and social-emotional supports.
“Children who are immunocompromised and parents who might not be quite comfortable returning their children to school.. we are going to work on alternative learning plans for a lot of those children,” said Minister of Education Gord Wyant.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
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