UPDATE: On August 12th, LPSD announced on their social media that they will be moving to level two of Saskatchewan’s safe school reopening. Masks will be mandatory for all staff and students.

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Lloydminster Public School Division is giving parents a clearer idea of what schools will look like in the fall.

Division staff have been working with the Ministry of Education, parents and school staff to develop a reopening plan for schools this September. They released their plan last week which provides details on how the division is preparing and what students should expect if they return to a classroom in-person. The reopening plan is based on the safety guidelines set out by the Government of Saskatchewan.

Director of Education Todd Robinson says the division has been working on a plan that falls within the guidelines since June.

“We’re excited about welcoming staff and kids back in unprecedented times. It will likely be the most significant school opening in the last 100 years. We’re proud of our plan and we’re going to continue to do anything we can to try and make sure our schools are safe for our staff and our kids.”

Schools within the division will be focusing on a cohorting system that will have a set group of students and staff stay together throughout the day. The cohorts will limit interactions between groups of students as well as limit the spread of the virus.

For elementary and middle schools, staggered entries, exits and breaks will be the norm as well as classes being taught primarily in homerooms. There will be assigned seating in the classrooms and desks will be arranged so that students aren’t facing each other. Outdoor spaces may also be used for activities and classes.

The high school will also be following the same guidelines, but will instead be based on blocks of scheduled classes to reduce the number of transitions in a day. Option classes for both middle and high school will also be made available online.

Students will all follow their individual grade program and curriculum.

Parents are asked to send their children to school with only the essentials as to avoid the situation of having children share items with each other. Lunches will also have to be ready to eat as the microwave, water fountains and other appliances will not be available. Water bottle filling stations will be available.

Physical education

Teachers will be looking into using a minimal amount of equipment for physical activities. Students will also sanitize their hands before physical education classes to avoid spreading the virus on items such as basketballs. Afterwards, all items and equipment used will be sanitized immediately.

Extracurricular activities

Plans for extracurricular activities such as high school sports are still being worked on and will follow the direction of the Chief Medical Health Officer. Robinson does say any activity that requires group transportation will not be allowed. All field trips, out of province trips and international trips have been cancelled.

Fire and lockdown procedures

Robinson says every principle in the division is going through the procedures and adapt them to include COVID-19 procedures as well. Each school will have their own specific procedure which will be finalized ahead of September.

“It’s one of the things we have to address with schools, is that still has to happen. We have to find a way to do that in a way that doesn’t break all the rules around COVID.”

Hygiene and PPE

Schools will have increased sanitization with stations set-up in each classroom and high touch surfaces will be cleaned regularly. Custodial staff, who in the past would clean up after evening user groups, will now be cleaning during the day. Robinson says they’ve added 160 hours of caretaking a week.

In terms of personal protective equipment for staff and students, Robinson says they are well-equipped. He mentions LPSD was included as part of Alberta’s plan and the province is providing them with masks. The division is still regulated by Saskatchewan, but they will be getting PPE from Alberta.

“We’ve planned in advanced for [PPE]. We found out last week about the change in direction and we’re working with Alberta to potentially procure more masks to cover all of our students, if that’s the direction that we go in. I’m pretty comfortable that we will have PPE available for staff and students on day one.”

The province hasn’t made masks mandatory in the initial reopening stage, however they could be made mandatory in level two.

Quarantine rooms

Each school will have a designated quarantine room for a student who appears to have symptoms related to COVID-19. Their parents will be called to pick them up. A staff member will stay with the students while wearing PPE including a procedural/surgical mask and eye protection during all interactions with the student.

“Our main goal is to, as quickly as possible, bridge that student from school to having their parent pick them up.”

The room must be able to hold multiple children while maintaining a two metre distance. Once the child leaves the room, it will be sanitized and any item that can’t be sanitized will be stored in a sealed container for three days.

“The expectation is that parents need to know in advance that if their child presents symptoms during the day, that they will come pick them up as soon as possible. That will help us all with that, so that we don’t end up with a whole bunch of kids in an area where we’re holding them for an extended period of time while they’re not feeling well.”

Remote and online learning

There are four levels of precautions which can be activated regionally or provincially. The fourth would require mandatory remote learning which Robinson says the division is prepared for.

He says feedback given during the Thought Exchange at the end of the last school year has helped inform them of some of the challenges.

“What was interesting was that parents predominantly said about supplemental learning is that it doesn’t work without accountability. Saying you can participate or don’t have to doesn’t work, didn’t work. I think our community would be very much on board with a model that said all kids in, marks matter, assignments matter and staying on top of things matter. That’s for the teacher and the student.”

Teachers will continue teaching from their classes in school while the students interact with them online. The option of remote learning will be available for parents who feel uncomfortable sending their children to school in September or anytime afterwards.

“We’re going to make sure that every family in Lloydminster has an option for education and we’re going to respect the rights of parents to make the decision about where their kids go.”

Robinson says they will also build opportunities for students to transition back into in-person classes if they choose to return. More detailed information on the divisions plan for remote and online learning will be released next week.