As Alberta school boards prepare for three different possible scenarios for the fall start to the 2020-21 school year, teachers in the Calgary Catholic School District will be back in their buildings as of Monday.
The board told Global News on Tuesday that teachers will be back for the last week of the school year so they can tidy classrooms and get a head start on preparations for the fall in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The majority of CCSD teachers and staff have been working from home for three months, after getting the go-ahead from the board on March 17. Since then, each school has had only about five people in each building each day to perform administrative and custodial duties.
According to chief superintendent Dr. Bryan Szumlas, the decision was made after Alberta moved into Stage 2 of its relaunch.
Szumlas said bringing teachers back is an important part of preparing for the fall as it will give them a chance to get any materials they need for the summer, to ensure their classrooms are ready for a new cohort of students and to have the chance to talk with their leaders about how the next year will look.
Teachers, other staff and leaders will still have to keep public health recommendations and orders in mind, Szumlas said, adding that everyone will be expected to sanitize when they enter the schools and social distancing measures will be in place.
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There will also be some masks on hand as part of PPE kits that are being delivered to schools this week, however, they’re not mandatory.
The CCSD also has its own COVID-19 handbook which will be given out to staff and families next week.
“We want to get closer back to our new normal and we want to start by educating our staff,” Szumlas said.
“We realize it’s going to be hard for some, there’s a lot of anxiety out there.”
Szumlas said the majority of teachers and other staff are looking forward to getting back to school, but for those who are wary about returning, there are many supports available. He also stressed the the schools are clean and ready for re-entry.
When they do come back, staff will be expected to complete the Alberta Health Services-created COVID-19 questionnaire to test for possible symptoms and exposure. The same will be the case for if and when students return.
Planning for the fall
The government of Alberta has presented schools with three different possibilities for what the fall term will look like; Scenario 1 will see students back in school with near-normal health measures, Scenario 2 will have students back with more health measures and Scenario 3 would have students learning online as they have been since March.
Szumlas said the CCSD schools have operated under Scenario 1 for more than 100 years, and have successfully worked with Scenario 3 for the last three months, so preparing for Scenario 2 is proving to be the biggest challenge.
“We haven’t done it before,” he said.
“With social distancing in play, it’s not going to be possible to have all the kids at school every day.”
Szumlas said if Scenario 2 is what’s decided in August, the CCSD schools will most likely see students attending classes on alternating days.
“We’re going to find that we’re going to have up to 14 students present and the following day we’ll have a second cohort attend,” Szumlas said.
The possibility of dividing students between morning and afternoon isn’t a viable option because of transportation and the amount of cleaning that would be needed in the middle of the day, Szumlas said.
He said the CCSD has been hoping for the best, but also preparing teachers and families for what Scenario 2 might look like so they’re ready for the worst and not caught off guard.
Szumlas said thanks to the preparations that have already been made and bringing staff back for the last week of the year, the tentative date for a decision from the province — Aug. 1 — will give the district enough time to implement any of the three scenarios.
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