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Coronavirus: Global News gets a look inside a GTA elementary school preparing for students’ return to class

Click to play video 'Global News gets inside peak at GTA elementary school’s COVID-19 prep' Global News gets inside peak at GTA elementary school’s COVID-19 prep
Global News is getting a first look inside a GTA school as staff prepare for the return of hundreds of students.

As families get ready to send their children back to school, either online or in class, the staff at an elementary school in Brampton is meeting regularly and preparing for the students’ return.

“It’s non stop and every day and every moment … we have a reopening committee … that have been sitting at the table trying to think of everything,” said principal Ozma Masood.

“We have a 127 page operating policy from the Peel District School Board (PDSB) that outlines every safety element … all we have to do is being able to read through it carefully and implement it.”

Aylesbury Public School caters to students from kindergarten up to Grade 8, with 860 students in total.

Read more: Ontario government releases guidelines for dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

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This year, 520 students are signed up for in-class learning, while the remainder will stay at home and participate in online learning.

From the moment families arrive at the PDSB school, things will feel different.

“The plan is for us to use the ‘kiss and ride’ to be able to have parents drive up … our staff would be using walkie talkies to communicate with the classroom teacher and to escort students from their vehicle to the outdoor classroom,” explained vice-principal Daryl Sidial.

The school buses will be able to drive right up to the front door, but families will not be allowed to.

Read more: Ontario outlines where additional federal funding will go for back-to-school plans

“That is how we are going to navigate keeping parents in their vehicles and for students to have access to their classrooms,” added Sidial.

Plastered on the front doors are signs reminding students and staff to put on a mask.

“As soon as our community members are out and together outside they’ll be putting on their masks and then they’ll be walking through the door and will be sanitizing on their way in, and between every activity they are doing, and on their way out,” explained Masood.

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In the office there is a designated isolation room for students displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

Staff must put on full PPE, including gowns, gloves and shields, to then enter the room and support the student.

Click to play video 'Feds add over $760 million to support Ontario’s back-to-school plan' Feds add over $760 million to support Ontario’s back-to-school plan
Feds add over $760 million to support Ontario’s back-to-school plan

“We have close relationships with the families and many many of the kids … and our families are close by so they’ll get here quickly too and we’ll be able to comfort them,” she added.

When students arrive in the morning, they’ll meet their teachers outside, in the school yard.

Whenever possible, they will remain outside for instruction in “designated outdoor classroom areas,” otherwise they will enter the building with a staggered approach to maintain physical distancing between groups.

“When it’s a little bit rainy, I think we can anticipate that we will be outside in the rain because we are not going to challenge anything related to COVID safety just to keep kids dry… if they have to be outside for a little bit they will have their rain coats,” she explained.

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Coronavirus: Ontario education minister outlines COVID-19 Management Plan

Inside a Grade 3 classroom, formerly the art room, the desks are noticeably spread apart.

“This classroom probably could accommodate 18 to 22 students safely … that’s not too bad at a Grade 3 level,” said vice-principal John Uren.

He has worked hard to tweak the students’ schedule so their exposure to staff is limited to just a few educators.

“We’ve determined that we wanted to have a minimal contact of two teachers in most of our spaces … we’ve taken our phys. ed. and music specialists and combined them into an arts and humanities package. The staff is amazing and flexible and they’re going to do whatever is best for students,” he said.

The kindergarten classrooms look nothing like they did pre pandemic.

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Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Ontario releases COVID-19 Management Plans for schools' Coronavirus: Ontario releases COVID-19 Management Plans for schools
Coronavirus: Ontario releases COVID-19 Management Plans for schools

The tables are spread far apart and the room is bare.

“Usually we have about five or six chairs at a table, this year two would be the maximum,” said Charmaine Wright, designated early childhood educator.

Wright and Ngan Ly work as a team and together have come up with creative ways to accommodate the play-based learning model for their students.

“Individual bins … the child would label it with their name and the bin would have individual activities for the child … like a LEGO activity,” said Wright.

“I think we are trying to learn how to communicate with our eyes,” added Ly, since educators, like students, will be wearing masks at school.

Aylesbury has a number of common areas that will remain off limits, including the library, due to high touch areas which would pose a health risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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