Back to classes with COVID-19 precautions

Schools like E.W. Pratt School in High Prairie will open their doors when the new school year starts in September. Schools have been closed since March 16 during the coronavirus (COVIFD-19) pandemic. Health and safety measures will be in place to protect the risk and spread of the virus.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Classrooms will open when students go back to school in September as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues.

Schools will be ready to welcome students under near-normal daily operations with health measures, announced by the government July 21.

“I’m proud of our comprehensive plan that supports the safe return to daily in-school learning,” Premier Jason Kenney says in a news release.

Classes and schools have been closed since March 16.

School divisions and boards are working hard to put steps in place under direction from the province and will release details in the coming weeks.

“We are determined to do everything that we can to safely return our students, teachers and staff to school,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health agrees.

“We are committed to do everything possible to protect the health and safety of students, staff and families during the upcoming school year,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw says.

“We also have plans in place to respond quickly when cases are identified.”

Schools will implement a number of public health measures, which include frequent cleaning of surfaces, placing hand sanitizers at school entrances and classrooms, grouping students in cohorts, and planning the school day to allow for physical distancing, which could include staggering start times for classes, recesses and lunches.

Additional public health measures may be established prior to September on the advice of the chief medical officer of health in consultation with the education system.

In addition, students, staff, parents and school visitors will be expected to use a self-screening questionnaire daily to determine whether they can enter the school.

Students and staff may wear a mask if they choose to.

However, practices such as physical distancing, cohorting, frequent handwashing, staying home when sick and increased cleaning of surfaces will continue to be the priority public health measures.

Health guidelines allow for a maximum of 20 students per class.

Government funding supports infrastructure enhancements that will help in a COVID-19 learning environment.

Many schools will receive upgrades for enhanced hygiene such as hands-free sinks, automatic flush toilets, touchless soap and paper towel dispensers, automatic doors and water bottle filling stations to replace water fountains.

-COVID-19 cases at school

If a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19, a public health team will investigate to determine when symptoms developed and support the school to minimize transmission.
While each case will be addressed based on its unique circumstances, it is anticipated that in most cases only the group of students and staff who came in close contact will likely be required to stay home for 14 days, and not the entire school population.
Parents will be notified if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed at school and public health officials will contact those who were in close contact with that person.

-Transitioning to scenario 2 or scenario 3

If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in a community or school, health officials will work with Alberta Education and impacted school authorities to make any decision to potentially transition to partial in-class learning or at-home learning.
Decisions will be based on multiple factors including the number of cases in a community or school and the risk of ongoing transmission.
The health guidance for scenario 2 has been updated to allow for a maximum of 20 students per class.

Alberta’s government has developed a re-entry tool kit to prepare parents and students for what to expect in the new school year.

The tool kit includes videos for students explaining some of the health measures, a guide for parents, frequently asked questions, school posters, a self-screening questionnaire in multiple languages, and links to health guidelines.

For information, visit the government website at gov.ab.ca.

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