OLDS – The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) re-entry plan has worked well in keeping students, teachers and staff safe since classes resumed last month, says division principal Jodi Smith.
The 20-school division includes schools in Olds and Innisfail.
“Our re-entry plan focusing on safety has worked very well,” Smith said. “Our teachers have been incredibly creative and caring and we are so happy to have the kids back in school and to have those voices and laugher and joy in the hallways.”
Like other school divisions in the province, the RDCRS re-entry plan has included numerous COVID-19 prevention measures and practices, including physical distancing, hand-washing protocols, and facemask requirements for common areas and on school buses.
Occupation Health and Safety inspectors have toured schools in the division.
“Everything that was observed and inspected was passed without any recommendations or compliance orders being given,” she said.
The division began work on the re-entry plan in June, allowing for the purchase of adequate safety supplies, she said.
“We did a procurement process to make sure that we had all our materials in place in terms of disinfectant and hand sanitizer,” she said.
“We purchased that at the division level so we made sure we had that in place before classes even started and that really helped.
“We started out with a hazard assessment and then we created some handbooks for our staff and our students and sent that out prior to school starting. We were able to set everybody up for success coming in.”
Signage, such as directional arrows in hallways, were all in places prior to classes getting underway, she said.
Things such as recess times have been staggered to make sure students can observe physical distancing requirements, she said.
Teachers and administrators have been focusing on ensuring student learning is not negatively impacted by the pandemic, she said.
“When we look at academics we are really working at progression,” she said. “We say that every child is on a learning progression and regardless of COVID there is still a progression. We want to see where the child is and we want to move them forward.”
The re-entry plan has allowed for the continuation of religious observances and faith activities, she said.
“We’ve had some priests that have done online (services) that get streamed to every classroom,” she said. “They come up with creative ways to have students still practise their faith and be involved in a prayerful community.”
The division has recently allowed for the reopening of lockers in schools, she said.
“We initially had lockers closed and so now we have lockers open because we live in Alberta and winter is coming,” she said. “We needed to make sure our students have places to put their jackets and boots.”
A number of field trips for limited distances for some physical education students have also restarted, she said.
“We have no outside people renting our facilities right now, so we hope at some time we can get that going again because we are community based and we want to make sure we are supporting the community around us,” she said.