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School divisions in Winnipeg release plans for return to classes amid coronavirus pandemic

Click to play video 'After school programs face their own challenges amid COVID-19' After school programs face their own challenges amid COVID-19
While much has been written on Manitoba's back-to-school plans, those involved with before or after school programming say they're still lacking fundamental details. Global's Malika Karim picks up the story.

Winnipeg school divisions have begun releasing details of their plans for back-to-school amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Last week Manitoba’s education minister and chief medical officer of health unveiled the government’s practice guidance and protocols around the return to school, slated for Sept. 8, but each division was given until this week to post their individual plans for reopening.

Read more: Masks ‘strongly recommended’ but not mandatory in Manitoba’s updated back-to-school plans

On Monday, the Winnipeg School Division, Pembina Trails School Division, Seven Oaks School Division, St. James Assiniboia School Division and the River East Transcona School Division unveiled their plans based on the government’s practice guidance and protocols.

The Louis Riel School Division has been revising a plan originally posted to their website June 29. That plan was last updated Friday.

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Under the wider provincial plan, face masks are “strongly recommended” but not mandatory for students and staff within school, although all students Grade 5 and up, as well as bus drivers, will be required to wear masks on school buses.

The province says all students are expected to participate and a doctor’s note will be required to say a child is immunocompromised.

The division’s specific plans weren’t expected to differ too much from the government’s wider plan, although there are some differences between what back-to school will look like in each of the divisions.

Read more: St. James-Assiniboia School Division buys reusable masks for older students

Divisions say they are strongly recommending the use of masks, and are asking parents to add packages of non-medical masks to school supply shopping lists this year.

Divisions also said schools will communicate further information — including specific scheduling details — to families before school starts.

The Manitoba government added a link to their website Tuesday that includes plans from divisions across the province.

Here’s some highlights from each of the Winnipeg division’s plans and a link to each:

Winnipeg School Division 

  • In-class learning resumes for all students with Nursery to Grade 8 students and students with special needs returning five days per week
  • Grade 9 to 12 students will be in-class to the greatest extent possible and blended learning may vary from school to school
  • Physical distancing will be required, maintaining a distance of two metres where possible
  • Classrooms will be organized to encourage the maximum space between students
  • Floors will be marked with stickers to designate a one-way traffic flow and identifying two metre distances
  • Occupancy levels will be limited in common areas such as hallways, stairwells and libraries
  • Lockers will not be used by students at this time
  • Recess and lunch times will be staggered, and students will eat their lunches at their desks
  • Schools should have a dedicated space available for students if they are feeling ill while they wait to get picked up
    by parents/guardians
  • Staff who become ill during the course of the work day are to be sent home
  • Entry and exits to schools will be managed to avoid congestion
  • Contact sports and games, or the use of shared equipment is strongly discouraged
  • Students Grade 5 and higher mandated to wear non-medical masks on buses
  • Students in Grade 5 and above, as well as teachers and staff, are strongly recommended to wear a non-medical mask in
    common areas throughout schools and when physical distancing of two metres is not possible
  • Students and staff should provide their own non-medical masks, however, they will be available at the school or on the bus if needed
  • Non-medical masks should be added on the school supply list as well
  • The division is in the process of adding more technology to improve remote learning and will continue to plan for a sudden shift
    to remote learning

Here’s a link to the Winnipeg School Division full plan.

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Louis Riel School Division

The LRSD says it is continuing to work on some aspects of its plan, such as transportation, and distancing, cohorting and movement of staff and students. The division’s website says transportation plans will be updated for parents and guardians with children that take the bus by Aug. 21. The division’s website says plans for distancing, cohorting, and movement of staff will be shared by Aug. 28.

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  • Kindergarten to Grade 8, students will return for five days of in-class instruction per week
  • Students in Grades 9 to 12 will return for up to five days per week of in-class instruction if high schools can effectively implement physical distancing and the use of cohorts
  • Students with special needs in all grades will return for five days of in-class instruction
  • All students in Grade 5 and above, as well as teachers, staff, visitors and volunteers, are strongly encouraged to wear non-medical masks in areas where two-metre physical distancing is not possible
  • The bus driver and all school bus passengers in Grade 5 and above, are required to wear a non-medical mask on the bus
  • Schools and buses will have a supply of non-medical disposable masks available for students and staff who forget to bring their own
  • Schools will keep students and staff together with the same cohort throughout the day, including lunch breaks, recesses and other non-instructional time
  • Schools will stagger schedules and movement of cohorts to avoid being in shared spaces such as foyers or hallways at the same time
  • Visitor access will be minimized to the greatest extent possible

Here’s a link to the Louis Riel School Division’s full plan.

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Pembina Trails School Division

  • Students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 will return to five (5) days of in-class instruction per week
  • Students in high school will attend, at minimum, in person two days a cycle and participate in remote learning when not physically attending
  • High school students with additional needs will attend school on a daily basis
  • Learning will be done in cohorts, defined groupings, for students in Kindergarten to Grade 8
  • When required, recess and lunch times may be staggered for students in Kindergarten to Grade 8
  • Cameras for each classroom have been purchased for instructional purposes, to be used at teachers’ discretion
  • When a child is unable to attend class, they may be able to follow along for parts of the day
  • All students with additional needs, and their eligible siblings will be transported to and from school
  • Eligible students attending childcare centres, not including home, will be transported to and from school
  • Families are encouraged to drive their own children or safely arrange carpooling
  • Eligible students, who normally qualify for busing will not be transported
  • Eligible French Immersion and English students, regardless of distance from home to school, will not be transported (exceptions will be made for those with additional needs and or eligible childcare centres pick up and drop off)
  • All school bus passengers in Grade 5 and older, and the driver, are required to wear a non-medical mask
  • Students in Grades 5 -12, teachers and staff are strongly recommended to wear non-medical masks where physical distancing is not possible
  • The division will provide masks to staff and will also have a limited number available for students who arrive without
  • Families are asked to purchase non-medical masks, as part of this year’s school supply list

Here’s a link to the Pembina Trails School Division full plan.

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Seven Oaks School Division

  • Children in Kindergarten through Grade 8 and students with special needs will be in class full days, five days per week
  • Most high school students will attend in person every second day and learn at home on the alternate days
  • All of high school classrooms are equipped with webcams so that teachers can teach students in person and online at the same time
  • Schools will lend tablet devices and assist with connectivity as required
  • All students in Grade 5 and up are expected to wear masks when they are unable to socially distance. Younger students may wear masks
  • Students in Grade 5 and up are required to wear a mask on school buses
  • Reusable masks will be provided to all students without charge. Disposable masks will be available on buses and in classrooms for students who forget to bring their mask
  • Large gatherings, including concerts, large-scale sporting events and assemblies will be avoided
  • Lunch, recess and activity breaks will be staggered to limit contact
  • Exit and entries into schools will be staggered
  • School buses will be running in September for those students who are eligible for school bus transportation but their capacity will be limited
  • Parents are asked to transport their own children to school where possible
  • Students will have assigned seats on the bus and must stay in those seats while on the bus
  • When possible, one student per seat is recommended. However, children from the same household and students in the same in-school cohorts may also sit together on the bus
  • Locker use will be limited or discontinued

Here’s a link to the Seven Oaks School Division’s full plan.

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St. James Assiniboia School Division

  • Kindergarten to Grade 8, and students with special needs will be in-class full days, five days per week
  • Grade 9 to 12 students will begin attending in-class learning on alternate days for the first three weeks of September
  • On Sept. 28, where two metre physical distancing is possible, high school students may return to in-class learning every day (the division says this will be decided on a class-by-class basis)
  • Classroom teachers will support the development and provision of at-home learning packages for students who are isolating or quarantined
  • When remote learning is required, students will have access to learning resources, including technology and connectivity
  • Remote learning will be in place for students who are medically advised not to return to in-class learning due to COVID related risk factors
  • In September SJASD will transport eligible bus students from the Headingley and Brooklands areas, as well as students with exceptional needs
  • To plan for busing capacity increases in October, an electronic survey will be sent to families and child care centers that have eligible bus
    students
  • For the short term, parents are encouraged to transport their own children
  • All school bus passengers in Grade 5 and over, as well as the driver, are required to wear a non-medical mask
  • If a student forgets a facemask, a limited supply of disposable facemasks will be available on the bus
  • When possible, one student per seat is recommended. However, children from the same household and students in the same in-school cohorts may also sit together on the bus
  • Students will have assigned seats on the bus and must stay in those seats while on the bus
  • Students in grades 5-12 are strongly recommended to wear a facemask when physical distancing is not possible in the school setting
  • All  students in grades 5-12 will be provided with 2 reusable facemasks at no cost
  • Depending on the school, locker use may be limited. There will be no sharing of lockers
  • Lunch and recess breaks will be staggered throughout the day, and whenever possible children will be kept together with their class or cohort during these breaks
  • Schools will pause school sports for September 2020 (or until further notice)

Here’s a link to the St. James Assiniboia School Division’s full plan.

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River East Transcona School Division

  • Kindergarten to Grade 8 students, and all students with additional needs in all grades, will return for five full days of in-class instruction per week
  • Students in Grades 9–12 will return for up to five days per week of in-class instruction
  • Cohorts will be used in early years, middle years, and high school
  • Staggered/staged starts and exits are expected
  • Teachers will move classrooms while the students remain, for the most part, in their designated room or with their cohort
  • Students in Grade 5 and above, as well as teachers and staff, are strongly recommended to wear a non-medical mask in common areas throughout schools and when physical distancing of two metres is not possible
  • Masks will be required when on school buses for all students in Grade 5 and above
  • Extra masks will be made available at all schools throughout the school year for those who do not have their own
  • Bus transportation will be provided for students with additional needs who require individualized programming support
  • Only students living outside the 2.5 kilometres walk zone boundary will be eligible for school bus transportation until further notice
  • Bus service will be provided for students living outside the City of Winnipeg perimeter in the municipalities of East St. Paul and St. Clements
  • Learning for high school students will likely be extended through some remote/at-home work and, where possible, some courses may be offered online
  • Students who stay at school for lunch will eat lunch in their cohort classroom
  • Students who stay at school for lunch will eat lunch in their cohort classroom
  • Hot lunch programs, as well as cafeteria use/sales, is suspended until further notice
  • Where possible, breakfast and snack programs will continue
  • If locker use is not discontinued, it must be significantly limited and monitored
  • Assemblies and large gatherings are not permitted at this time
  • To ensure all students are ready for a possible move to remote learning, loaner devices and home internet service will be provided to students based on need

Here’s a link to the River East Transcona School Division’s full plan.

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Manitoba parents respond to back-to-school plans

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. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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