Kingston-area students will be heading back to class after the Labour Day weekend, and school boards along with teachers are working to ensure a smooth and safe transition.
While the start of a new school year is exciting, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic poses obstacles to the safe return of students and staff.
“They’re the same protocols as last year, so they’re going to have their own items on their desk and usually it’s up to the teacher how that’s going to work,” says Jane Roberts, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario Limestone local.
“They may have a little bin with their little things in that they keep in their desk that they don’t share. If they’re using things that other students are going to use, probably specific students are assigned to specific items that are shareable and then they get cleaned. So there’s specific protocols in place.”
One change to last year’s safety protocols allows parents to send personal materials for their kids to use. This was not an option last year based on health and safety regulations at the time.
However, according to Limestone District School Board (LDSB) superintendent of education Alison McDonnell, shared materials may be used when necessary.
“The public health guidance and protocols for entry into school this year are really clear that materials can be shared between students this school year in classrooms,” says McDonnell. “However, we will obviously do our best to mitigate that in those situations where that’s a possibility.”
Handwashing and sanitizing will be a priority when using shared materials and enhanced cleaning protocols are still in place.
“The custodians are doing what they did last year,” says Roberts. “Door handles, high-touch surfaces, desks, tables, that kind of thing are getting cleaned on a more regular basis throughout the day.”
An educator for 26 years, Roberts says school teachers continue to go the extra mile to put smiles on their students’ faces.
“Teachers want the environment for the kids to be exciting, and warm and friendly. And so they buy extras for the kids, especially at the beginning of the school year. You’re going to see, they go out of their way to make it a real exciting experience.”
Roberts says there will also be some HEPA filters in classrooms that are not connected to a mechanical ventilation system. Continuing that all kindergarten classrooms, regardless of whether they’re connected to a mechanical ventilation system, will have HEPA filters.
The first day back for the Limestone District School Board as well as the Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board is set for Sept. 7.