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BACK TO SCHOOL – A QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE

For the past 5 months, Covid-19 has brought the world to a halt. The viral pandemic has confined us within four walls. With parents working from home and kids taking classes online,there has been a huge shift in our way of life.As things are now beginning to look normal,schools in the country are planning to reopen in a planned manner. Below is the list of various provinces and their guidelines to get all children back to school. 

British Columbia

British Columbia has laid out a complete plan for studies to resume in “learning groups” this fall. All school districts will be posting post final back-to-school details online by Aug 26th

  • Back to the classroom: All schools were planning to welcome students back full time on Sept. 8th. However, the province announced it is postponing the restart date by two days to Sept. 10th.
  • Study groups: Students will be sorted into small learning groups so many students don’t come near each other. For learning groups of elementary and middle school students, it won’t be larger than 60 people. Secondary school learning groups will be restricted at 120.
  • Physical distancing: Students and staff do not need to social distancing norms within their learning group, but contact should be minimized. Outside the learning group, physical distancing is required. The seating arrangement for students should be more spaced out in classrooms.
  • Masks: Students and staff won’t be required to wear masks in schools, but according to the province, it’s a “personal choice that will always be respected.”  Dr. Bonnie Henry; the provincial health officer recommends that non-medical masks should be worn by adults and older students when they are not able to maintain physical distance; for example, in hallways and on buses.
  • New routines: The province is also asking schools for a staggered recess, lunch and class transition times and take students outside whenever it is possible.
  • Transportation: Middle and high school students will have to wear masks on buses. Students are to be assigned seats in buses, and a transparent barrier can be used to separate the driver.

Alberta
The Alberta province is also setting similar guidelines. It is planning to completely reopen schools from kindergarten to Grade 12 this fall. In case of an outbreak, the class size would be reduced to 20.

  • Back to class: All schools will reopen with maximum safety measures. The province also mentions that there are programs to support remote learning and alternative learning.
  • School groups: Schools should sort students into cohorts by class. By doing this, they should try to minimize contact as much as possible.
  • Physical distancing: Physical or social distancing is recommended whenever
    possible. The seating arrangements in classrooms should be arranged in a manner to increase space between desks.
  • Masks: The staff and many students in some school settings will have to wear masks. Students in Grades 4 to 12 will have to wear masks in hallways, buses and all common areas. Staff should wear masks whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained. Masks will be optional for kids in kindergarten through students of Grade 3. The government says all staff and students will receive two reusable masks as part of the new policy.
  • Transportation: Parents should bring their kids to school if they can. Students who are taking the bus will have to sit in the same seat every day.
  • New class routines: Schools are advised to consider a “no sharing policy”. This means that each student should bring their own supplies. Class, lunch and recess schedules will be staggered.

Saskatchewan
At first, Saskatchewan had a set of back-to-school guidelines in June but released more details on August 4th.

  • Back to class: Students will start going back to school on Sept. 8th after the province pushed the date back from Sept. 1st
  • School groups: Staff members and student groups would be assigned to each other and they should stick together throughout the day and try not to come in contact with other groups. The province has notified that schools should aim to minimize the number of different instructors who interact with students at regular intervals.
  • Physical distancing: Officials say that maintaining social distancing is “less practical” for younger children, and the focus should be aimed at limiting physical contact. Officials have suggested limiting hugs and hand holding and have also suggested using alternative greetings such as air high fives. Schools should have dedicated quarantine areas where symptomatic students can go before they are picked up by parents.
  • Masks: The province has left it to the school boards to decide whether to make masks mandatory for staff and students. The chief medical health officer has advised that students of Grade 4 to 12 should wear masks in busy areas such as hallways and on buses.
  • Transportation: Parents should drop and pick up their kids to school when possible.Students who will be using school buses will be assigned seats, and a partition can be used to separate the driver from the students.
  • New routines: Start times, class transition, recess and lunch may be staggered to allow for more space for physical or social distancing. Schools will have to rearrange their classrooms to space out students. Also, students and staff swill have to bring hand sanitizer.

Manitoba

The Manitoba province has informed that students are going back to schools on Sept. 8th with new guidelines.

  • Back to classrooms: From kindergarten to Grade 8 are, all students will have in-class instruction 5 days a week. High school students will also be in class full time, but, there may be some days of alternative or remote learning.
  • School groups: When physical distancing isn’t possible, students will have to be organized into groups of not more than 75 to minimize contact. In these cases, there should be at least one metre between their desks.
  • Physical distancing: The province says students are required to maintain a two-metre distance to “the greatest extent possible. Physical barriers should also be considered as an option. Classroom spaces should be arranged in such a way that it should encourage separation.
  • Masks: For students of grades 5 to 1, masks are strongly recommended. They must wear masks when travelling a bus.
  • Transportation: Students Grade 5 and up, as well as drivers, will have to wear masks on school buses. Parents are encouraged to drop off and pick up their children
    to and from school if they can.
  • New routines: Lunch and recess will be staggered to minimize congestion, and in many cases, teachers will change classrooms instead of students.

Ontario
Students in the province of Ontario will be back to school in September, but their schedules and class sizes may differ depending on where they live.

  • Back to classrooms: Elementary and many high schoolers will have a 5-day school week with standard class sizes. Secondary students at two dozen boards who are at higher risk will only attend class half the time; the rest of the week they will be week working on “curriculum-linked independent work.” Parents can keep their kids out of class, and in such cases, boards will have to provide options for remote learning.
  • Student groups: For high schoolers in high-risk districts, class sizes will be limited to 15. Elementary students will not be broken into smaller groups; they will be grouped into cohorts. Also, their exposure to different teachers will be limited.
  • Physical distancing: Education Minister Stephen Lecce has stated that the aim is to keep students one metre apart from each other. However, a guidance document has narrated schools should promote physical distancing “as much distancing as possible” rather than it being enforced strictly.
  • Masks: Grade 4 to Grade 12 students will have to wear masks. The staff will also be expected to wear masks.
  • Transportation: Some school boards may have more than one student assigned to a seat. When physical distancing isn’t possible, students in Grades 4 to 12 will have to wear masks. Younger students will also be encouraged but not required to do the same.
  • New routines: Students in some districts will have to pre-register for in-person schooling. Some schools may limit or ban visitors, including parents. Breaks will be scheduled to allow students to wash their hands.

Quebec
All elementary and high school students in Quebec will be open in September unless they have a doctor’s note indicating they’re at high risk of COVID-19 complications or they live with someone at risk. Those students will be allowed to study remotely.

  • Back to the classroom: Class attendance is mandatory for elementary and high schoolers. For Grade 10 and 11 students, schools will have the option of alternating schedules where students attend one day out of every two – the unique step is taken to ensure safety. Students of grade 10 and 11 students are encouraged to attend classes as much as possible.
  • Groups: Each classroom will be its own bubble; students won’t be required to maintain a two-metre distance between classmates.
  • Physical distancing: Students must keep a two-metre distance from all school staff, as well as all other students outside their classroom bubble.
  • Masks: Wearing masks is mandatory for all students in Grade 5 and up, as well as all school staff inside all common areas of the school except the classroom. They can remove masks while eating.
  • Transportation: A school bus should have no more than 48 students, with no more than two students sitting on the same bench. Pre-school and elementary school students are encouraged to wear masks, while older students must wear them.
  • New routines: Teachers will have to move from classroom to classroom, students will stay behind in the class.
  • Backup plans: If there is an outbreak in one class, all students in the classroom will be sent home to continue studies remotely. Authorities are putting together an emergency protocol in case of a second wave to ensure instruction continues online if schools are again forced to close. Ideas include quickly distributing tablets or laptops to students needing them and establishing a digital platform to continue with studies and maintain communication.

New Brunswick
The New Brunswick province has outlined a set of requirements schools will have to follow in developing their plans for the fall.

  • Back to the classroom: Students in kindergarten to Grade 8 will attend school full time, while students in Grades 9 to 12 will be taught using a combination of in-class and remote instruction.
  • Student groups: For kindergarten through Grade 2, learning group sizes will be reduced to around 15. Group sizes will also be shrunk for Grades 3 to 5. Students of grades 6 to 8 will resume at regular class sizes and grades 9 to 12 students will not be grouped because of their schedules and course options.
  • Physical distance: Students of grade 9 to 12 classrooms will have to maintain at least a one-metre distance, while a two-metre distance is recommended in common areas at all students irrespective of their grades.
  • Masks: All students will bring a mask to school, but it will not be mandatory inside classrooms. Students in Grade 6-12 will have to wear masks in school buses and common areas. Kindergarteners to students in grade 5 are encouraged to wear masks. Teachers for kindergarten to Grade 8 have a choice on whether they want to wear a mask or shield in the classroom; however, teachers for Grades 9-12 will have to wear a mask when they cannot physically distance from students.
  • Transportation: Curtains will be installed inside school buses to separate drivers from students. If physical distancing is not possible, drivers will be required to wear a mask or face shield. Students must sit in the same seat every day. Students in kindergarten to Grade 5 will sit alone or with a member of their household. Students in Grades 6-12 wearing masks will sit two to a seat, and if they are sitting alone or with a member of their household, they do not have to wear a mask.
  • New routines: Arrivals, breaks and lunches are to be staggered. Public access to school buildings will be limited, and students, staff and visitors may also be subject to screening. High school students will be expected to have their own laptops or similar device, and some subsidies will be available. Drinking fountains will be replaced with water bottle-filling stations.

Prince Edward Island
Schools on the Island are preparing to welcome all students back to class while drafting backup plans for remote studies if required.

  • Back to the classroom: Schools will reopen for teachers and staff on Sept. 1 and for students they will reopen on Sept. 8.
  • Groups: Students will be organized into cohorts and will try to limit their exposure to others.
  • Physical distancing: Students will be informed about the importance of physical/social distancing. Extra teaching and cleaning staff may be hired. Schools are asked to reduce class sizes, rearrange classrooms and make use of spaces such as multipurpose rooms and libraries.
  • Masks: All students in grades 7-12 and staff are “strongly recommended” to wear masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Students from kindergarten to Grade 6 may wear masks when physical distancing is not possible. Staff interacting with children who have complex medical needs are recommended to wear gloves and face shields.
  • Transportation: Parents are asked to take their children to school if possible. Schools may add vehicles and routes or implement walk-to-school programs. 
  • New routines: P.E.I. education authorities are revising the curriculum for the school year to make up for learning gaps caused by lockdown constraints. Schools will stagger schedules to minimize congestion. The provincial school food program will be expanded next year in keeping with public health precautions.

Nova Scotia
The education minister of Nova Scotia Zach Churchill has stated that the province’s objective is for schools to return to 100 percent capacity by fall. The plan also includes measures to address the possible onset of a second wave of COVID-19.

  • Back to the classroom: The Nova Scotia province intends to have all elementary and high schoolers in classrooms by Sept. 8th.
  • Student groups: Students will be asked to keep to cohorts.
  • Physical distancing: Students and staff will be encouraged to maintain a two-metre distance in between whenever possible. Classrooms will be reorganized to increase space between desks.
  • Masks: It is mandatory for all students in grades 4 to 12 to wear a mask inside schools except when they are seated at desks that are two metres apart, facing the same direction. Masks must be worn in all common areas. All students and staff members will receive two cloth masks, free of cost. Disposable masks will also be available if a student loses theirs or comes to school without one.
  • Transportation: Students who take the school bus will have to wear non-medical masks.
  • New routines: Only students and staff will be permitted to enter school buildings. Teachers may also be asked to move their classes outdoors. Students will be asked to bring their own computers to the school. The ventilation systems of all schools will be assessed to ensure the equipment is functioning properly.
  • Backup plans: If a COVID-19 outbreak occurs during the academic year, schools will continue in a blended learning model with smaller class sizes and also home learning for older students.

New found land And Labrador
The province’s plan to reopen schools aims to maximize in-class attendance with an option of a return to remote learning if the COVID-19 risk increases.

  • Back to the classroom: The province’s plan outlines three scenarios
    • In-class instruction
    • Remote learning or a combination of both
    • Depending on the COVID-19 risk in a particular community.
  • Student groups: Cohorting by class is recommended if it’s feasible, but students’ schedules should not be disrupted to support smaller groupings.
  • Physical distancing: There should be a two-metre distance between desks or as much distance as possible. However, provincial authorities say these precautions should not interfere with the routine of the school. Strict physical distancing should not be “over-emphasized” on children as it is not practical and can lead to psychological harm.
  • Masks: The province does not recommend masks for children, but says their use should not be “stigmatized” for those that choose to wear them. Staff will also not be forced to wear masks if physical distancing is possible.
  • Transportation: It will depend on school districts to determine their transportation operations. All precautions will have to be considered; such as assigning seats and separating the driver with a physical divider.
  • New routines: All students must their own supplies in keeping with a “no sharing” policy.
  • Backup plans: In the event of moderate-to-widespread transmission of COVID-19, school districts will move to online learning. Classroom attendance should be limited to about 50 percent when the COVID-19 risk in a community is considered low to moderate. Newfoundland and Labrador say it will spend $20 million to purchase laptops for teachers and students in Grades 7 through 12 to support remote learning.
  • Yukon The Yukon government says it’s making plans for the next school year that include flexibility around the number of students in classes. This is done if there’s a second wave of COVID-19 or increased risk of transmission. The province says that each school will determine how it will adjust its operations to meet those guidelines, and school principals and staff are expected to share that information before September.
  • Back to the classroom: Preliminary plans indicate that in rural communities, all students will return to school full time. In Whitehorse, however, kids in kindergarten through Grade 9 will return to full-day in-school instruction. Grades 10 to 12 students will spend half their day in the classroom, and the rest learning remotely.
  • Groups: Class sizes may be smaller to meet safety restrictions.
  • Masks: Wearing masks is not mandatory
  • Transportation: School bus schedules will be updated on the territory’s website.
  • New routines: Schedule shakeups may mean that some students won’t have their regular teacher or the same classmates. School meal programs may be adapted with new safety measures and pickup options.
  • Backup plans: The territory has outlined a spectrum of school options if the risk to the community increases, ranging from rotating schedules to suspension of face-to-face learning.

Northwest Territories
All N.W.T. schools have submitted plans to reopen classrooms this fall. The territory says education authorities are taking a flexible approach with their planning to account for a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the latter part of the year.

  • Back to the classroom: While plans may vary between schools, the territory will offer in-person instruction whenever possible. This is carried out while ensuring alternative options are available.
  • Student groups: Students in kindergarten through Grade 6 will be in the classroom “bubbles,”. They will not have to practise physical distancing within groups.
  • Physical distancing: For students of Grades 7 to 9, they are asked to maintain a one-metre distance from each other, and a two-metre distance from staff. Students of Grade 10 to 12 are asked to allow for two metres of distance from their classmates and instructors.
  • Masks: Students of all ages may be required to wear masks depending on scenarios where physical distancing is not possible, such as moving through common areas.
  • Transportation: There may be changes to bus schedules, and all riders including the driver are required to wear masks.
  • New routines: More time will be spent learning outside. School hours and schedules may also look different. Students are asked to label personal items and not share.
  • Backup plans: The territory says schools are preparing to shift between in-person, distance and blended learning at short notice should there become active COVID-19 cases.

Nunavut
The Nunavut territory has released a four-stage plan for reopening session based on the risk of the novel coronavirus in a community.

  • Back to the classrooms: There are no reported COVID-19 cases in this territory, so all schools will reopen this fall with enhanced cleaning and safety precautions.
  • Groups: It is recommended that schools cohort students by class and limit mixing as much as possible.
  • Physical distancing: Distance requirements will depend on what stage of the infection a community is in. It will primarily be achieved by limiting school attendance.
  • Masks: In most cases, the use of masks is not recommended for children. If there are exceptions, parents will be notified; masks will also be provided.
  • Transportation: School bus schedules are also set to resume. Students who are older than 13 may be required to wear masks.
  • New routines: There will be limited group activities will be limited. Students in schools will not be allowed to share food in lunchrooms.
  • Backup plans: The territory says schools could go part-time if contact tracing were to identify a possible source of COVID-19. All schools would be closed if community transmission should take place.

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