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MVSD putting the final touches on plans for fall return

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The broad details were made public last week and now Mountain View School Division can begin planning in earnest for the return of students to division classroom this fall.
Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen revealed Thursday that classroom learning will resume for all Manitoba students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, Sept. 8.
The province released the Welcoming Our Students Back: Restoring Safe Schools guidelines have been developed in collaboration with the province’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 COVID-19 response planning team, as well as with school divisions and public health officials.
Classrooms learning will be full-time for students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 and for special-needs students in all grades, with five days of instruction per week. Some remote learning may be required for students in Grades 9 to 12, based on the ability of high schools to implement necessary public health measures.
MVSD CEO/superintendent Dan Ward said the provincial didn’t hold anything back in the way of surprises.
“We were fairly certain that there was going to be some restrictions that were already in place in June that would continue and that’s the case,” he said, adding the increase in cohort sizes to 75 will make it easier for some of the divisions smaller schools to bring back classroom instruction to as near normal as possible.
“Of course, there’s still going to be other protocols in place in terms of screening for everyone before they attend school on a daily basis, as well as enhanced cleaning protocols and other measures to ensure that staff and students are safe.”
Planning for the return of students actually began in June when the province asked school division’s to create back-to-class plans based on three scenarios - in-class learning with near-normal conditions; in-class learning, taking additional public health measures into consideration; and remote learning from home, with limited use of school facilities.
“So we’ve already got a lot of those pieces in place. And, of course, we had the entire month of June where we had students back on a gradual basis, where we were able to calibrate things that we needed to do, to adjust where we needed to adjust,” Ward said.
“So that was a great help and now we can take these new parameters and come up with a concrete plan that we can publish for our public in the coming days.”
Ward said whatever comes of the planning, the return to school this fall is going to look different than in past years and will vary school to school.
“Certainly when we look at K to 8 versus high school. It’s going to be more challenging at the high school level, especially for our larger schools, just with the number of students enrolled and the number of course selections,” Ward said.
“We’re going to have to see what’s feasible now that we know the actual numbers we’re working with and what can be done to try to bring back students, you know, as close as we possibly can to normal conditions.”
All planning and the eventual adoption of measures will be undertaken with an eye to the safety of staff and students, which is the division’s first priority, Ward said.
“That has to be part of every conversation, in terms of the options we’re going to explore,” he said.
Three response levels have been developed to ensure that school divisions and schools are prepared to roll back from in-class learning based on public health advice.
“Certainly there is the possibility down the road that there could be change. And the Department of Education has been very up front about that in meetings with superintendents, that should the situation worsen with COVID-19 that school divisions should be prepared at any time to go into scenario three, which would be learning by distance,” Ward said.
“If public health officials deem that it would be in the public’s best interest for classes to be suspended, then that’s what will happen. We have to be prepared for all contingencies.”
Ward said the province has aided in the planning process by meeting regularly with educators and being up from about its expectations and limitations.
The province has also allowed divisions to retain savings accumulated during the suspension of classes, to help address unforeseen costs.
“That works out for Mountain View to approximately $1 million, which maybe sounds like a good sum of money. But when you break it down per school it’s just over $60,000 per school,” Ward said, adding it is difficult to be certain about what kinds of costs are going to surface.
“So when you’re looking at things like staffing, cleaning supplies, transportation, as well as supporting mental health needs, professional development for teachers, we’re going to have to likely stretch every dollar to address the needs of our students of staff.”
Planning has also been made easier by the support of MVSD staff throughout the process, Ward added.
“That goes right from our support staff to our teachers through our school administration. Everybody has been working very hard and has been responsive. We’re looking forward to the return of our students,” he said.
“We will work to get a local plan out. I think what parents will be very curious about is how does this impact my child at their school and those are the finer details we’re going to work out in the coming days.”
The complete provincial plan is available for review on the division’s website at www.mvsd.ca and on its social media platforms.