The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District has released ‘A Safe Return to School’, a comprehensive plan for school reopening schools in the province in September.
The plan provides school administrators, teachers, students and families with information on how to best prepare for school reopening. NTV’s Kelly-Anne Roberts reports.
● The District has hired additional custodial staff and adjusted their duties to maximize hours spent on cleaning.
● After school each day, the building will be cleaned and disinfected, to ensure it is prepared for use the next day. Each high touch surface (door knobs, handrails, faucets, etc.) will be sanitized minimally twice during the school day.
● In the (possible) absence of cafeteria space, desktops will be used for eating as well as school work. Therefore, at the end of each day, all student desktops in use will be thoroughly cleaned.
● Public health officials have approved the school cleaning protocol.
● There are many sparsely populated school buildings in which physical distancing will not pose a challenge (i.e., there are about 100 schools with average class sizes of 15 or fewer).
● In larger schools, and particularly in high schools where students are enrolled in multiple courses, maintaining class cohorts and strict physical distancing is more challenging, and may not be possible in some cases.
● The Newfoundland and Labrador Public Health Guidelines for K-12 Schools indicate that if a two-metre physical distance cannot be maintained between cohorts at all times, physical distancing is encouraged “to the greatest extent possible and, “where physical distancing is not possible, desks should be arranged to achieve the greatest distancing possible”. NLESD schools will adhere to this recommendation.
● Based on the current low prevalence of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, the province’s public health guidelines indicated students do not need to wear a mask while in classrooms.
● Masks will be required on school buses.
● Masks will also be required in communal areas of the school for high school students and staff, and for junior high school students if cohorts change classes.
● However no student is required to wear a mask if they cannot tolerate it.
● Public health guidelines indicate this will be closely monitored and if there is a change in epidemiology or evidence regarding COVID-19, the recommendation may change. Further information is available in Newfoundland and Labrador Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools.
● The medical advice provided to the District is that there should be no more than two students to a seat on a school bus. Effectively, this means a bus which used to carry a maximum of 63-72 students can now carry only 46.
● There are not enough available school buses to make up this disparity. Many buses already do “double runs” to pick up students.
● Therefore, there will be students who would normally be eligible to ride the bus who will no longer be able to do so. The 46 eligible riders who live the furthest from their zoned school will have priority in available seating. Others will have to make their own transportation arrangements.
● All ‘courtesy seating’ arrangements will also be suspended at this time which, in turn, means there will be no requirement for previously established ‘courtesy stops’ within the 1.6 km school bus eligibility zone.
● When school opens, outdoor activities will be permitted, however, extra-curricular activities will be assessed for the month of September to enable the District to evaluate implementation of current protocols and assess any potential issues.
● Student groups will not be permitted to meet after school hours inside their school until further notice. They may wish, for example, to collaborate online with their peers until restrictions are lifted.
● Outdoor extracurricular programs may operate with approved sports (as determined by the District) following their sport governing body COVID-19 protocols. For more information see Protocol for Extra-curricular Activities.
● Educators have been provided with guidance and strategies to support music education during COVID-19 and will continue to be guided by public health with respect to extra- curricular activities.