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Coronavirus: Saskatoon school boards recommend students, staff wear masks this fall

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WATCH: Saskatoon school boards are recommending students and teachers were masks when school reopens in September, despite the province not making them mandatory.

Schools districts in Saskatoon released their plans for reopening this September amid the novel coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, following the province’s release of its own plan a day earlier.

Both Saskatoon Public Schools and the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools divisions told Global News they are recommending that students and staff wear masks in the wake of the province not requiring the coverings.

“Particularly when they can’t physical-distance within a classroom,” said Shane Skjerven, director of education with Saskatoon Public Schools.

Class sizes will stay relatively the same, Skjerven added. Students will see more signs about washing their hands, and there may be floor markers showing where to walk and how to stay six feet apart.

Read more: ‘We’re not really being protected’: Sask. families worried over back-to-school pandemic plan

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Teachers will be provided with both masks and plastic face shields in case their mouths need to be seen, he said, such as when young children are learning to read.

Disposable face masks will also be made available for students if they want them.

Read more: Masks won’t be mandatory as Saskatchewan releases its Safe Schools Plan

Kids will be put in cohorts to reduce the number of people they interact with and slow the spread of COVID-19 should an outbreak occur.

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The public school board is recommending everyone wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible at school, and if someone is interacting with people outside of their cohort.

Meanwhile, high schoolers will have a very different semester than what they’re used to. They’ll only take two or three classes a day, rather than five, according to both school boards, so that they are not interacting with as many people.

Those classes will run longer during the day and will only last a couple of months rather than the entire semester.

Some elective classes, including those needed by grades 11 and 12, may switch to online instruction.

Read more: Some Sask. school divisions encouraging staff, students to wear masks when returning to school

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“That will have students taking one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon, and do that for a period of approximately seven weeks and then they’ll move into the next courses,” said Greg Chatlain, director of education with the Catholic school board.

Prekindergarten and kindergarten students will get more attention to make sure they understand the new reality in class.

Typically, schools have “staggered starts” to help the youngest students adjust. Saskatoon Public Schools said they are extending this period to the week of Sept. 11.

Both school boards said they’re keeping an eye for further updates from the province.

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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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.