Students returning to school this fall in the Cariboo will be a few steps closer to a normal classroom setting, as teachers and administrators prepare for another year of COVID-19 protocols.
“The significant holdover from last year is the use of masks from Grade 4 to Grade 12,” School District 27 Supt. Chris van der Mark said. “Otherwise, things will be pretty close to normal.”
The removal of the cohort system – where students were limited to interactions with groups of 60 in elementary and 120 in secondary schools – will help to make scheduling a bit easier across the district, van der Mark said. There will be no two-metre distancing requirements in the coming year, and many are looking forward to the return of school sports and inter-school sports, he said.
“I think everyone will be happy about that,” van der Mark said. “I think it’s an exciting sign that we are moving towards that normal or familiar place. And we’re very happy to be in that position.”
While van der Mark acknowledges that many families in the district had likely hoped that mask requirements would be a thing of the past by now, he said he believes most people understand the concerns arising from the fast-spreading Delta variant.
He said that there is an exemption list for students who cannot wear a mask, and those instances will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, as they were last year.
“We have a duty to ensure our workplace is safe and to protect the kids to the best of our ability,” he said. “Again, I hope we see the same level of reasonableness that we did last year. People weren’t always happy, but they understood.”
As teachers and administration staff prepare for the return of students Sept. 8, van der Mark said the district is looking forward to an event set for Sept. 7 – a non-instructional day – for all district employees.
The district has organized an online workshop focusing on Truth and Reconciliation that will be attended by all staff, including educators, clerical support, maintenance and administration. The session will be hosted by University of Winnipeg professor Kevin Lamoureux, who serves as education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
“We will have around 800 or 900 people for this event, we are really looking forward to it,” van der Mark said. “We want everybody, regardless of their role, engaged in this important learning.”