For school principals, the start-up this fall to set up schools for students again has for the most part gone smoothly.
Sean Lamoureaux, principal of Mark R. Isfeld Secondary in the Comox Valley, said this has required the efforts of everyone, including administrators and teachers. As an example, he noted IT staff’s adjustments to allow teachers to adapt from the four-course, semester system to one that has them teaching two different classes a day. Likewise, maintenance staff have made the adjustments on site, such as adding a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system at the school, as well as adding sinks or hand sanitizer stations.
“It didn’t matter what we were asking for, as long as it was making our school safe, they got it done for us,” he said.
Lamoureaux also noted the work of health and safety staff to establish a template for procedures during the pandemic, and it is now being used by many school districts.
“It gave me the confidence to deal with anything,” he added.
He also gave credit to custodians for their extra efforts and to administrative assistants.
“They were our front line to deal with every phone call,” he said.
Life in general at the school is different, from staggered lunchtimes to social distancing and cohorts of students. The library has been modified, as have spaces for computer, food or textile classes. In one computer class, a teacher has even designed a way he could roll his laptop around the class, so he could help students but still keep a safe distance.
Fire drills are done by cohorts, and school events such as the Terry Fox Run or Remembrance Day celebrations have to be done in smaller groups or using technology.
Nearby, at Valley View Elementary School, principal Katy Doran has found many of the same things.
“Things do look a little bit different,” she told trustees.
From talking with staff, she has heard things are busy, though life at the school has been quieter. For example, instead of students crowding the hallways, they are using external doors to classrooms. There are additions for safety such as the hand-washing stations and more custodian time, but the school has brought in a system so students know if washrooms are in use. With washrooms limited to two at a time, the school has students move a traffic marker outside the washroom to one spot while they’re using the facility, then move it back once done.
One thing that has been a challenge has been the fact that school-wide events have been missing, but Valley View has come up with activities to foster school spirit such as a large “connection to nature” puzzle in the hall for students to assemble.
Doran also asked students about whether they preferred online or in-class schooling. While a few preferred classes through computers, most liked in-school classes better.
“They’re all very, very happy to be back at school,” she told the board.
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