Many public school students in the region will be heading back to class after the long weekend but they’re going to have to adjust to a very different education experience.
The outside of Applecroft Public School in Ajax might look the same but several changes have been made inside.
Brian Bradley, who is going into his second year as principal, says the school has been working for the past three weeks to get everything ready for students to return.
“We’re needing to maintain the social distancing and the health and safety protocols. It just forced us to think of things in a different way — how best we can teach the things that we taught always but slightly different,” said Bradley.
There’s plenty of signage throughout the hallways, water fountains are restricted, the stairwells have been re-assigned for traffic flow and there’s no access to lockers.
“We’re not able to keep our students one metre apart so we’ve (decided to) keep (lockers) shut with a bolt so that students will have to have their belongings with them personally in class, their jackets and backpacks on the back of their chairs,” said Bradley.
There are just over 200 students returning for in-person learning, two-thirds of the school’s typical enrollment, but that hasn’t reduced class sizes.
“We had to determine if that number of desks would actually physically fit in the classroom that we had planned for them. In some instances that wasn’t possible so we needed to shift teachers between classes so that we could have a larger-size classroom fitting that larger number of desks,” said Bradley.
Desks are spaced one metre apart in the Grade 2 classroom.
There are also hooks for masks as the kids eat lunch, hand sanitizer and a sink for students to wash their hands.
Bookshelves have been sealed.
“One of the advantages of doing the staggered start of our younger students is we will be able to meet with a very small number — it’s about 25 per cent of the students for the first week on each day, so we will be able to walk them through the signage, visual cues to help them understand the new protocols,” said Norah Marsh, Durham District School Board acting director of education.
Marsh says class sizes are below the provincial average across the board but says there are still some larger classes — a matter the DDSB is still working on.
“We will see what the enrollment is and we will be looking at decreasing some of those larger classes,” said Marsh.
About 60,000 DDSB students will be going back to in-person learning next week, leaving just three days for schools to make any last-minute changes.