Many students across the region are returning to school this week for the first time since March, as elementary and secondary schools re-open their doors.
John Howitt, director of education for the Lambton-Kent District School Board, said they are “very excited” to have their students come back.
“The first thing people will see will be smiles under masks while welcoming students back,” Howitt said during a press conference on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.
“You’ll see new signage, you’ll see arrows on the floors, you will see fountains bagged, you’ll see desks spaced or desks indicated on where to sit and where not to sit.”
Howitt added: “You won’t see extraneous furniture within the rooms, you’ll likely see teachers with signs to help people recognize where they’re classroom is. You’ll see students entering at multiple doors throughout the school versus a single entry point. You’ll notice students will then enter directly into the school as they would on a rainy day until we understand the routines of the school yards etc. where to boundary and where to keep the cohorts together.”
Howitt said students in Grades 4 to 12 will be wearing masks.
“And possibly some in senior kindergarten to Grade 3, as parents are encouraged to have those students have masks as well if appropriate for them,” he said.
“You will see students with backpacks with lunches and hopefully labeled water bottles, which the refilling stations can be used at. We’ll see lots of parents doing drop-off, as often happens on the first day of school, and we would like to remind parents to please be attentive and cautious. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to welcome parents into the school this year. So, they’ll have to say goodbye at the school door to their children.”
Deb Crawford, director of education for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, said increased cleaning protocols will be in place.
“One of the pieces that I’ve noticed in visiting our schools was the attention that is being made to the hand hygiene, the respiratory etiquette and enhanced cleaning and disinfection,” Crawford said during the press conference.
“It is wonderful to see the attention being paid now to the common areas and the high touch surfaces, door knobs, hand rails and the lights are being cleaned more often than one would see. Lots of new routines and a great amount of attention protocols that everyone has been practicing and working on for the last number of weeks.”
Crawford said there are mental health supports in place at all local schools as well.
“All of our schools have their assigned child and youth workers, as well as our social workers,” she said.
“We’ve been working all summer on programming that is going to be throughout all of our classrooms, looking at students well-being and trying to build those relationships. They’ve been out of the schools since March, it is going to be a difficult transition for some kids and for some kids it will be easy.”
Crawford said they want everyone to take the time to look at some of the resources available, that have been shared from their mental health lead and from their well-being staff.
“Just take time for everyone to re-build the joy and those wonderful relationships that are so necessary to learning,” she said.
Howitt added: “Maybe students are feeling nervous about coming back to school, I think that makes them normal. We need to be transparent of the fact that we as adults are nervous as well. We’re starting into a new look for schools. We’re confident in our planning. However, the plans have never been implemented before. We all want to do our very, very best. So, we’re nervous about making sure that we’re doing our very, very best for our students and the families throughout the Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton regions.”
Howitt said they’ve also encouraged their staff, especially on the first few days, to not jump directly into the curriculum and “to get down to the text books.
“But to help socialize children to each other, to the new environment and to be open and honest and transparent with them to welcome them back to school,” Howitt said.
The LKDSB’s full back-to-school plan can be read, here.
The SCCDSB’s full back-to-school plan can be read, here.