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What school will look like when Quesnel students return to class in the fall

There are still a few unanswered questions but some plans are in place for students in Quesnel to return to class on September 10th.

Superintendent Sue Ellen Miller says staff will return a couple of days earlier on the 8th…

“Our staff will come back and we’ll work on a lot of the health and safety measures and making sure all the things that have changed through the summer are in place, because we were fortunate to start up in June and got a lot of the health and safety pieces in place for the district.   We’re going to review all of that.”

Miller says one of the new things for students will be what’s called learning groups…

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“Before it was about the number of students in the building, the density, and people will remember some students came back to school and some didn’t.    And we felt, and government felt, while we tried that emergency type of remote learning it wasn’t all that successful for students.   So now when government went back and worked directly with the Provincial Health Officer Doctor Bonnie Henry and others, we felt that the best method for returning all students to school was in cohorts or learning groups.”

Miller says that will be different for elementary and secondary students…

“In an elementary school there will be groups of kids, probably two classes around the same grade, up to 60 people, students and their teacher will become a learning group.    And that learning group or cohort will be able to work together up until Christmas, or the whole school year, whatever we decide as a group, and when they are together they won’t have to be physically distanced.   They can work together carefully, you know a little bit of space because we don’t want any physical contact, but they’ll be able to be together like a bubble.    And in high school that bubble can be, on both Quesnel Junior Secondary and Correlieu, can be a bubble of 120 students because kids at that age, they understand washing their hands better, they understand physical distancing, they know what two meters looks like.”

Miller says they will likely have staged or staggered lunches as well.

She says they don’t know yet which students will be in which bubble…

“We are actually required to post a plan for the community and communicate information to parents by August 26th.   They may not know what learning group their child is in because we don’t know who’s all coming back to school yet, but we’re going to get from August 26th to September 10th we’re going to clarify that.”

Miller says the Ministry of Education will be providing two masks for every staff member and two reusable masks for every child…

“Right now when students are in their cohort, or when they’re outside and distanced from other children but within their cohort, they won’t need to wear a mask.    For students in grade 8 through 12 the conversation has been to use masks in common areas but we don’t have the guidance on that.   On buses students in grade 8 to 12, if they’re not sitting with students in their cohort or with siblings, they should be wearing a mask.”

Miller says the final guidelines on masks aren’t out yet, but she says they will certainly play a part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

She says if any family wants their child to wear a mask the school will support that.

Miller says they will be recommending to parents that they check their child every day to see if they have any symptoms of COVID, and if they do to keep their child at home until they are sure that they don’t have the virus.

She says staff members will also not be coming to school sick.

Miller says overall they are confident that they can keep the students and staff safe…

“One of the things that is different in a school environment versus something else in the community is it’s a very controlled environment.   We control the cleaning and the health and safety guidelines, we control who comes in and out of the building and so when you said earlier, do I feel good about kids returning to school.   We have an opportunity to create that environment and keep people as safe as we can.”

Miller says that may not be the case in other public settings.

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