The Prince Albert Catholic School Division is excited to return to school in September after Deputy Premier and Minister of Education Gord Wyant outlined the plan for returning during the COVID-19 press conference on Thursday, June 18.
The division has been planning for the return to school from introducing a new learning platform to purchasing technology.
“Our primary response will be that we are going to be able to have our children working with us in our schools. And so for that reason I think it is going to make a lot of teachers, a lot of families and students happy that they are actually going to be working in classrooms in the fall and we can’t lose sight of that,” director of education Lorel Trumier said.
“I am excited about the fact that we are going to have our children back in school. Their safety and well-being will be a priority. I am anticipating some absences because of illness but we always have those kinds of absences,” she said,
Trumier explained that the division is in line with the Ministry of Education and wants the same thing.
“We want our children and our staff to be safe and that their well-being is the priority,” she said.
“I can assure you the ministry values the education of every child in this province,” Wyant said Thursday.
“Their safety and wellbeing, as well as the safety of educators, is paramount as they prepare to return this fall.”
The guidelines include standards for cleaning and sanitation as well as procedures such as staggering entrances and limiting group activities. Physical distancing will be encouraged as much as possible. Continuous mask- wearing is not part of the recommendations.
The use of physical barriers, such as Plexiglass, is also allowed if physical distancing is not possible.
“We are getting our facilities ready to have some opportunities for sanitizing hands, washing hands and sneeze guards and those kinds of things. We are also from an educational perspective preparing ourselves for what could be an eventuality. Let’s hope that we can have our students in that is our hope but we need to be reasonable and be ready to support our children. We want to teach them well,” Trumier said.
The Catholic Division has added the purchase of Plexiglass barriers to their amended their three year Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) plan and budget.
Teachers and parents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the guidelines, which are posted online as part of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan.
According to Trumier, they are already in the process of getting schools and facilities ready for what is needed to support students and staff when they return. The division is also planning contingencies around education including introducing their new learning platform in August.
“We know that there may be times throughout the year where children may not be able to be at school and if they are sick or unwell or their family is isolating we need to be able to bridge what is happening in our classrooms to their homes and that is where our Edsby platform is going to support the communication to families and to children what is happening,” she said.
She explained the Edsby platform will be able to communicate what is happening at the school level so students who do have to be absent don’t get behind. Edsby Communicates to all three levels of the education process; teachers and student/parent.
“That communication system will be key,” she said.
She gave an example of if there is a certain grade the lesson can be communicated and students can ask for help before or when they return.
“If you need some help when you get back to school we will be able to help you but at least you will have been able to maintain engagement with the school, they will be maintaining communication with their teacher, they will find out the goings on in the classroom not only from a curricular perspective but even if we have opportunities of extracurricular activities or special events,” Trumier said.
The Edsby is one platform for all users across the school division. It still allows access to all students with Microsoft 365 Office apps will be available to all students for free download on personal devices while enrolled in the division.
“There is so many opportunities that I think Edsby provides us a great window of communication to families and students because we know that these families and students are not coming because they don’t want to be there but they don’t want to be left out,” she said.
Ahead of schools opening, the division is also sending out a chance next week for families to rent devices. The division put out a request for pricing on laptops or notebooks and tablets in order to be prepared for whatever may come in June.
“Or we are looking at different opportunities right now if perhaps families want to purchase some. It doesn’t mean they have to but it is an option. What really excites me about our Edsby platform is if a parent has a cell phone it is mobile-friendly. You don’t need another device per se,” Trumier said.
“We are going to work with our staff, they have already done a fantastic job it was very difficult they had to learn quickly how to educate in this kind of fashion.”
She explained that they are planning ahead even to the level of lesson planning and working to the level of curriculum.
“Then we are not in a position that after 14 days of isolation that a child is coming back without any contact,” Trumier said.
-With Files from Peter Lozinski, Prince Albert Daily Herald