Urban high schools allowed to open at level 3, province says

Monday’s Prince Albert Catholic School Division board meeting was the rst one that was open to the public since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. /Michael Oleksyn

All large urban high schools in Saskatchewan are allowed to open up at level three, the province told school divisions last week.

The updated provincial school reopening plan has five levels, with one being the most relaxed and five the strictest. Level two includes mask mandates, while level three allows for a mix of in person and remote learning.

“We are permitted to move to Level 3 and that is why Sask. Rivers last week announced their every second day (schedule) and cohorting,” said Prince Albert Catholic School Division director of education Lorel Trumier.

“I think that we are working to look at those opportunities when it comes to planning where we should be.”

Trumier said the division should be able to finalize some of the elements of their plan within the next few days to “relay that information to our families and our students at our high school.”

Trumier reported during the meeting that Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab has escalated all high schools in large urban areas, such as Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina, to Level 3. She explained to the board that they were working on a plan to address the needs at Ecole St. Mary. This includes reducing classroom capacity and grouping of students or “cohorting”

Trumier explained that the catholic division is currently working on safe alternative guidelines and looking at structure for St. Mary. They are also looking at a hybrid model which would include online learning elements. Trumier explained that they are working with Principal Mark Phaneuf, learning leaders and superintendents and expect to have the plan ready soon for what learning will look like at St. Mary.

“We are also looking at reducing the cohorts of the students. They will also be in the position to move to Level 4 which will mean all online learning. So we are doing lots of planning, we should in the next day or so be able to release our high school plan,” she explained.

“We would be looking at teacher and class cohorting as directed by our medical officer which means all of our teachers would teach the majority of their classes to their students. We would introduce another teacher or two for specific areas but we would be limiting that as much as possible,” she said.

The Catholic Division has already made masks mandatory for Grade 4 to 12.

The division has also communicated with the Ministry of Education and requested the masks the ministry ordered. They’re expected to arrive in the next couple of weeks. Masks will be available for any student without mask or those who forget them. All students Grades 4 to 12 will be provided one reusable mask and guidelines will be reviewed with students upon school starting September 8.

The division has also bought masks for staff, who will be provided with two each.

The division board is also covering their faces, as they wore face shields during their August meeting in addition to sitting physically-distanced.

“We have created an opportunity for our teachers to wear shields like this that if they are physically distanced two meters or more that they could have this as a precaution,” Trumier said during the meeting

With the province announcing a new start date of Tuesday, September 8. The division is also looking at staggered entry into schools. Trumier explained to the board that administration has gone so far as to look at timetables to reduce the numbers of staff and students that are exposed to each other in a school day. In elementary settings there would be three teachers and on rare occasions four teachers. Students would also have assigned desks. The division has been meeting with local medical heath officer Dr. Khami Chokani. He spoke with Trumier over the phone on Saturday for two and a half hours.

Trumier said parents will be asked to transport their own children where possible. This was part of the initial announcement on June 17. All students who ride a bus from Pre-K to Grade 12 must wear a mask with accommodations provided for students with intensive needs with planning with school-based administration. As well, a seating arrangement will be provided for all students who ride the bus and family members will be seated together.

Trumier also had a meeting with elementary school principals Monday afternoon to talk about staggered start times, recesses and lunch. More information is expected to be released by the end of the week.

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