What will the fall school year will look like? Calgary Board of Education releases return-to-school plan

Click to play video 'Parents, students and teachers react to CBE back to school plan' Parents, students and teachers react to CBE back to school plan
WATCH: The Calgary Board of Education has released its re-entry plan for the upcoming school year. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, parents and teachers still have questions about how it will work.

It is a question parents and students have been asking — what will the fall school year look like?

On Thursday, the Calgary Board of Education released its re-entry plan for students — moving ahead with what it calls “Scenario 1” or “near-normal” operations, according to the CBE.

The full list of changes and health measures can be found on the CBE website, here.

According to the CBE, the school year will start in “Scenario 1,” but there is a chance schools may have to transition to Scenarios 2, and 3 throughout the school year. This decision will be determined by Alberta Health and Alberta education.

“All CBE schools have been given guidelines to prepare for Scenario 1, and will make adjustments based on their unique school community and physical layout of each school,” the release said.

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Hub online learning

Parents who are not comfortable sending their children to school because of COVID-19 can opt for a temporary online approach. The Hub Online Learning will be available only for the 2020/2021 school year.

“This is a short-term, online learning approach for families who are not comfortable returning to in-person classes. The hub online approach is a combination of online instruction and independent work and requires a significant commitment from students and parents,” the CBE said.

“It will not offer the same opportunities or supports as in-person learning.”

Parents will have to register their children in Hub Online Learning between Aug. 12 and 24. Registration closes at 4 p.m. on Aug. 24.

All CBE schools will be open for in-person classes, with additional health measures such as frequent hand washing and the recommendation that everyone wear masks.

Supt. of school improvement Joanne Pitman said teachers will be reassigned to designated hub classes based on need. Those classes will be separated out by area and be supported across all schools, she said.

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“Each of our seven areas will be working collaboratively with… other schools to identify how it is we can appropriately reassign existing staff to be able to deliver online learning while still making sure that our in-person classes, which is the priority, are still able to take place and follow our appropriate measures.”

Read more: Alberta K-12 students to head back to classroom this fall

Non-medical masks 

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At this time, the CBE is recommending that students and staff wear masks in school and on buses.

However, the school board said the only time a student is required to wear one is if they get sick. The CBE said students who get sick will be given a disposable mask to wear until a parent or guardian can pick them up.

“Based on current advice, the only time your child will be required to wear a mask at school is if they become ill,” the CBE said. 

What happens if someone gets COVID-19?

The CBE said if there are cases of COVID-19 at a school, Alberta Health Services Zone medical officer of health will work with the school district and school staff to provide recommendations and messaging for staff, parents, and students.

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that if someone has COVID-19, an assessment would be done to figure out who was in contact with that person while they were considered infectious.

Hinshaw said this could mean an entire class would have to self-isolate or only a few people, depending on contact.

“Those who were in close contact would have to be home for 14 days… that could, in some cases, mean the entire class would have to be in quarantine for 14 days. In other cases, there may only be a few people who were in close contact, so it really depends on the context and how many people would end up [needing] to self-isolate for the 14-day time period,” Hinshaw said.

The local medical officer of health will make the decision whether to send a cohort or class home – or to close the school.

The school will support students who have to self-isolate with resources to learn at home.

Read more: Premier Jason Kenney touts spring session, defends Alberta’s back-to-school plan

Additional health measures at Schools

The CBE is directing everyone who enters the building to be required to use hand sanitizer. There will be proper hand-sanitization and hand-washing stations throughout the school.

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Students are required to wash their hands at home, on arrival at school and before leaving school.

Parents and guardians are required to assess children for daily symptoms of the common cold, influenza, COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. Anyone showing symptoms (listed on the self-screening form) must stay home.

Students who are ill with any of the symptoms must isolate for 10 days or until symptoms resolve.

Physical set-up of schools

Where possible, desks will be separated from each other by two metres. If that distance cannot be maintained, desks or tables should be arranged so students are not facing each other.

Pitman said physical distancing is not the only measure that is identified throughout the guidelines provided by Alberta Education.

“At every single turn we cannot rely solely on one measure as the solution to limit or create safety within the school environment. It is really important that we understand all of the measures — the importance of hand hygiene, masking is recommended.

“What becomes really important is that all of our students will have to have a seating plan.”

According to the CBE, physical distancing is difficult in a K-12 school setting, particularly with younger students.

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“(We) will establish different expectations for varying age levels and activities. For example, younger students should be supported to have minimized physical contact with one another, while older students and adults should seek to maintain a safe physical distance whenever possible,” the CBE said.

Read more: Educators, parents react to Alberta decision to send K-12 students back to classrooms in fall

Where possible, students will be grouped into smaller cohorts that stay together throughout the day. Attempts will be made to minimize the number of different teachers and educational assistants that interact with the group.

There could be staggered lunch and recess breaks to maintain physical distancing.

Click to play video 'Hinshaw, LaGrange answer questions about Alberta’s back-to-school plan' Hinshaw, LaGrange answer questions about Alberta’s back-to-school plan
Hinshaw, LaGrange answer questions about Alberta’s back-to-school plan

Seating will be removed to prevent the gathering of groups and there may be barriers or partitions placed between students.

School assemblies and other events must be held virtually, according to the CBE.

There will be signs and arrows on walls and on floors to guide staff and students’ movements in common areas and hallways.

Daily operation of schools

Parents and guardians must stay outside the school when picking up and dropping off their children.

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Schools will designate certain entry and exit points for the drop off.

Schools will be cleaned thoroughly every evening with many high-touch areas disinfected daily by staff.  Some of those surfaces include: desks, chairs, phones, doorknobs, light switches, sinks, and others.

Lunch and Recess breaks

A maximum of 100 students are allowed in a common area at a time.

Students will be asked to practice physical distance while eating.

Desks and tables used during lunchtime will be sanitized before and after.

Playgrounds will remain open as long as the Alberta Guidance for Playgrounds is followed.

Parents are asked to send their children to school with a refillable water bottle. Drink fountains however can remain open.

There is to be no sharing of food or drinks between staff or students. Like classrooms, lunch tables will be rearranged or removed where possible to maintain physical distancing. ​

Chief Supt. of schools Christopher Usih said there will be additional costs associated with the added health measures — and said they’re working within their budget.

“Certainly we anticipate additional costs and we are working within our budget, within our existing budget, to ensure that we are ready and prepared to serve students when they show up Sept. 1,” Usih said.

The school board’s back-to-school plan comes after the province released its school re-entry plan early last week which outlines that in-school classes will resume with near-normal daily operations and added health measures – under the province’s Scenario 1 – when class is back in session this September.