The provincial government won't be making a final decision on what the 2020-21 school year will look like for families until next month, but one Alberta school board has released details about its plans for all the possible scenarios.
Rocky View Schools (RVS), Alberta's fifth largest school board, announced its strategy for each of the scenarios set out by Alberta Education in May.
While the Kenney government implied Scenario 1 would see school open and operating as close to normal operations as possible, RVS has highlighted a number of areas that would be different in its schools.
In Scenario 1, RVS says all parents will need to ensure their children are well and not exhibiting symptoms of any illness, including COVID-19. If a student does become ill while at school, they will be moved to the school's infirmary and parents/guardians will be notified to pick them up within an hour of being notified.
The board has admitted in both scenarios, due to the number of students in the building, it would be impossible to maintain the two-metre physical distancing rule at all times.
"This is why it is so important that anyone showing symptoms needs to stay home, get tested and cleared before returning to school," the document reads.
Some of the other changes in Scenario 1 include:
Parents not allowed to enter school property without the principal's permission
Students and staff will be divided into cohorts that will remain together during the day – contact between different cohorts will be limited
Water fountains remain off-limits – students are encouraged to bring full water bottles from home and refill stations will be monitored by staff
Visitors, volunteers and guest presenters are prohibited until further notice
Extra-curricular activities, including sports and fine arts, are cancelled until further notice
Clubs will be allowed, but only in situations where physical distancing can be maintained and all surfaces are wiped down after the meeting is over
Field trips and other outings requiring group transportation will not be scheduled – excursions will be limited to those within walking distance of schools
No hot lunch or fundraising food programs are allowed
In order to reduce congestion in hallways, lockers will not be used
Capacities of washrooms will be posted and must be adhered to – students will be required to wait if the capacity has been reached
RVS says some optional courses will also change under the guidelines of Scenario 1. For example, music classes will not have in-person singing, cheering or shouting. Students enrolled in band will not be able to play wind instruments.
"Music/Band programs will need to consider alternative ways to achieve the learning outcomes while reducing risks."
Food and cooking courses will be allowed, but must follow the rules set out by Alberta Health Services. Any food created as a result of the courses must not be consumed.
When it comes to transportation, RVS says school buses will continue to operate and regular fees will apply, but drivers will be asked to come up with a seating plan for students. Children from the same household will be expected to sit together.
Families will also need to decide if they want to provide their children with masks to wear, considering that the buses will remain quite full under Scenario 1.
Special measures will be taken if a child happens to appear ill or brings any concerns to the attention of the bus driver, RVS says.
"Should a child display or bring to the driver’s attention concerning symptoms when getting on the bus or while riding (atypical coughs, runny nose, fever, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, headache, sore throat, chills, painful swallowing, feeling unwell, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, unexplained loss of appetite, loss of sense of taste or smell, muscle or joint pain, pink eye) then the driver must stop, put a mask on the impacted student, move the student to the reserved row at the front, wipe down the immediate area that the student was in and report the student’s name and school to RVS' Transportation Department."
The school board's guidelines for Scenario 2 include all the conditions set out in Scenario 1, as well as the following modifications:
Students will be broken into two cohorts, with one attending Monday, Wednesday and alternating Fridays and the other attending Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays – when students are not at school, they will be expected to work from home
Class sizes limited to no more than 20 students
All extra-curricular activities are cancelled until further notice, as are all field trips no matter the distance from the school
Half of the stalls in washrooms will be blocked off and only one student from a classroom will be allowed to leave at a time
Transportation fees may be modified if Scenario 2 remains in place for more than four weeks out of the school year and bus capacities will be reduced to 50 per cent of their total
In both of the above scenarios, RVS says if any cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in school settings, health authorities will work directly with the school to provide recommendations and messaging for staff, parents and students.
No matter what scenario is chosen by provincial authorities, RVS says the board may be required to change their strategy at a moment's notice if the COVID-19 situation changes.
The board says its decisions on each of the scenarios was based on surveys sent out to parents earlier this year.
"Much of the information outlined in each scenario was guided by provincial direction and more than 17,000 responses we received from parents, student and staff. Through RVS’ School Re-Entry Survey Results, we learned that the majority of stakeholders prefer to resume classes with health measure under near-normal operations," it said in release.
Alberta Education is expected to release further guidance on the 2020-21 school re-entry plan on Aug. 1.