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School divisions gear up for restart

Planning underway for classes in September

INNISFAIL – What classes will look like in the Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) and the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division (RDCRS) when classes resume in September will depend a great deal on what the provincial government has to say on Aug. 1, say officials.

The province announced last week that it is considering three possible re-start scenarios: in-school classes with near normal operations with additional health measures; in-school classes partially resuming with additional health measures; and at-home learning with in-school classes cancelled.

The government says it will make a final decision on Aug. 1 regarding which scenario will be in place when classes resume.

School board authorities have been instructed to prepare for any of the three scenarios.

Scenario 1 would include enhanced cleaning and disinfecting throughout schools, routine screening for all staff and students, and the avoidance of large groups such as assemblies.

Scenario 2 would include a recommended maximum of 15 people in a classroom, as well as the heightened cleaning and screening.

Scenario 3 would probably be the most challenging for Chinook’s Edge, said Kurt Sacher, the division's superintendent.

“If there is a rigid adherence to two metres distancing inside of classrooms we would have difficulty reaching a maximum of 15 students in a classroom,” said Sacher. “That would mean we would have to operate on an every other day cycle.

“If they need us to strictly adhere to the two metre social distancing at all time in the classrooms, it really limits our ability to bring students into the school.

“Staff members are putting a lot of serious thoughts into all three of the scenarios, but in particular Scenario 2 because it is the most complicated.”

Kathleen Finnigan is the interim superintendent of RDCRS. Scenario 2 would also likely be the most challenging for her division, she said.

“I would be in agreement with Kurt (Sacher),” said Finnigan. “In Scenario 2, we would have partial classes where we would almost be working at a group A and group B situation where we would have to stagger learning throughout the week.

“Would that mean that group A would come Monday and Wednesday and group B on Tuesday and Thursday?”

Scenario 2 would also impact transportation, they said.

Relaunch meetings are now underway in RDCRS, with three surveys recently sent out to parents, staff and students.

“In our parent survey, we are asking if they could drive their students to school,” she said.

Sacher said Scenario 1 would be the preferred option for his division.

“We believe that face-to-face learning is definitely the preferred model,” said Sacher. “There have been some benefits to the online supports, and we will be ready to go in to that mode (under Scenario 3) if there is a need for that.”

Both Finnigan and Sacher said officials are eagerly awaiting the government’s announcement on Aug. 1.

“That day will be a really good indication of that status,” he said. “There are lots of places where we will need clarity.”

Finnigan said her division has so far been pleased with the government’s restart efforts.

“What is key is that they are asking for feedback to see what the different options mean,” she said. “That is encouraging.”

The plan is to bring back laid off staff, including librarians, educational assistants and bus drivers, if possible, she said.

“We are hoping to bring out people back,” she said. “They are valuable to us.”

Sacher echoed those comments.

“It is looking more and more like we are going to need everybody for the fall, and we hope that is the case,” he said.