Students won't be able to physically distance in any re-entry scenario,says one Alberta school board

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

Michael Franklin Senior Digital Producer Published Friday, July 10, 2020 2:51PM MDT

Last Updated Friday, July 10, 2020 3:00PM MDT

Comments added are written by Home Education Funding Alberta

CALGARY -- 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.

What?! Near normal operations is Scenario 1 ?!?!?!

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.

Remember the majority of people with COVID-19 do not show any symptoms so how will Parents know if their children have it or not?

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.

This is not realistic for all parents to do, some parents are surgeons and some parents may be heavy crane operators. Leaving work immediately to try to pick up their child/children every time they show symptoms of being sick is impractical. Remember people infected with COVID-19 usually show no symptoms...

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

How is this even safe or legal? As a Parent isn't it a right to have access to your own child/children at all times?! The principal should offer real-time video monitoring of the school grounds, during school hours, for all parents to give them peace of mind.

  • 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

I sure hope the staff will be sanitizing these refill stations after every use!

  • Visitors, volunteers and guest presenters are prohibited until further notice

  • Extra-curricular activities, including sports and fine arts, are cancelled until further notice

I hope the government is then cutting back all the funding for this change. By the way, I don't think any children will be to happy to hear this...

  • 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

What about the students who forgot their lunch or did not bring a lunch? They will probably end up sharing with their friends...

  • In order to reduce congestion in hallways, lockers will not be used

So where are they going to put all their belongings: water bottles, lunches, jackets, boots, umbrellas, and snow wear?!

  • Capacities of washrooms will be posted and must be adhered to – students will be required to wait if the capacity has been reached

Good luck with little children waiting to use the bathroom, there will then probably be a lot of accidents and more of a health hazard.

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.

This sounds like a concentration camp. A school is full of children and every child loves to sing and cheer and shout. Music classes without singing is like getting horse-riding lessons without using a horse. What is the point?!

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.

Good luck with maintaining this rule. We cook and bake so that we can eat the food. What is the point of cooking and baking without tasting the results?!

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."

All without being late for school right?! The bus driver will not be able to focus on driving safely and diagnosing every student on their school bus all at once. These protocols are unrealistic especially if there is more than one student who is unwell. By the way, this puts the bus driver at high risk for infection especially spread because they will be in contact with different groups of people throughout the day. And if the bus drivers feel unwell and cannot drive the buses anymore, who will?

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

Parents, I am not sure if this works for you but I can imagine it probably won't for a majority of you and your job stability. Have they even really thought this Scenario 2 through?

  • 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

Will the schools' funding be cut because these expenses are no longer available?

  • 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

This is a sure way to have accidents every where especially among the young children. And will increase bladder infections in these children if they have to hold their urine for a long period of 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.

Will this lead to another shut down of schools and another shut down of businesses in our economy to help flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19?

Why don't we just keep children home where they are safe and encourage home education in Alberta with an increase of funding for it? Students will be healthy and educated, it is a WIN-WIN!

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.

Of course the stakeholders would want the classes to resume normally because their job security and benefits and pensions are on the line. Remember they see dollar signs.

Next time survey the parents and the children ONLY and see what they want. I can guarantee they will not want to return back to school under any of the above scenarios because they resemble a concentration camp atmosphere and the risks of being infected with COVID-19 are significant. I do not think they want to play Russian Roulette with the lives of their child/children or even their own.

Alberta Education is expected to release further guidance on the 2020-21 school re-entry plan on Aug. 1.

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