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New school year, new school plan

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Mountain View School Division (MVSD) has finalized plans to get students back into the classrooms of its 16 schools this September.
Following provincial guidelines and public health orders, MVSD administration produced and published on its website a 16-page document outlining all aspects of its re-entry plan.
“The plan is essentially complete, we’re just putting a couple more items in there regarding student services,” MVSD CEO/superintendent Dan Ward said.
The division, he added was waiting for the province to make an announcement about practises and protocols, which came Aug. 13.
“We were waiting for a government announcement on masks. We have been corresponding with the province over that particular topic and for protocols. At the board meeting (Aug. 10) there was a discussion and the board expressed its wish to support our staff and students with wearing masks and ensuring that they are provided,” Ward said.
“And so the announcement on Thursday was well received that students and staff will be encouraged to wear masks. We’re going to provide education in that area and for any student or staff member who is not in a position to provide their own mask, the school division will provide a mask to them.”
The province indicated it will provide masks to school divisions for distribution to students and staff, as well as other personal protective equipment to “ensure safe and healthy schools.” MVSD, Ward added, has already been securing a supply.
“We are working with government to procure additional supplies. We’ve already ordered a number of masks for our schools already and so the government did indicate that they will be providing support in that regard through central government services,” Ward said.
At this point in time they are not mandatory in schools across the province
“If that should change, then certainly we would communicate that to our students families and staff,” Ward said, adding masks are mandatory on buses for any student in Grade 5 or above.
“If families have questions around that, if there is a medical accommodation need that would prevent a child from wearing a mask, then we’re going to ask them to contact the school division and we will work with them.”
Ward said MVSD will work with public health to determine a course of action in those instances.
“But essentially they are mandatory on school buses across the province for children and students in Grades 5 through 12,” he said.
According to the provincial plan, all students are to return to the classroom on Sept. 8.
However, Ward said, if a medical accommodation is needed by a family to continue with remote learning, MVSD will work with those families to support children at home.
“So, for instance, if a child is immunocompromised and their physician has advised that for now they should work from home, we will support those families. Other than that, the expectation is that students attend school full time,” he said.
“That being said, we are relaxing our attendance policies and this is to ensure that if a student is feeling unwell that they don’t attend, that they do the self screening. And that if the self screen provided by shared health on the government’s website indicates that they’re to get tested, that they get tested. So we are taking a more flexible approach to attendance.”
Ward said it is the division’s wish that all students return in September, but added if any families have questions around the need for medical accommodations or are feeling anxiety, division officials would be available to answer questions and discuss options.
He added there has been an increase in people seeking information about home schooling.
“So whether that will actually come to fruition in terms of a greater number of families in home schooling, we really won’t know until September, but certainly we’ve received more questions about home schooling than we would in a typical year,” he said.
What the division does know is that there will be students back in September and planning for that took into account all of the division’s 16 schools encompassing common approaches and unique needs. In particular, at the division’s two largest high schools - the Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School and Goose Lake High in Roblin - a blended approach featuring in-class and remote learning was needed, Ward said.
“They have higher enrolments than the other four high schools. So acknowledging that students take a whole multitude of classes to meet their graduation requirements and whatever program they are in, having them attend full-time and get the courses they need for their programs and for graduation is not feasible at this point with the provincial directives around cohorting and social distancing,” he said.
“So the schools will be communicating with their students and families the approach that they’re taking. It’s essentially students will attend on even days or odd days. The schools are determining which of those days students will attend and they will communicate with families and students on that schedule.”
Any student, Ward added, with a special or exceptional needs, in Kindergarten to Grade 12 in any school, will attend full time to receive the extra support they need.
For all schools and all grades the plan calls for some common approaches which include:
• All Public Health orders and guidance will be followed.
• Desks will be spaced out to encourage social distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols will continue.
• Frequent hand washing will be supported and encouraged.
• All students, staff and guests will be required to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer upon entering the building.
• Gatherings in common areas will be discouraged.
• Student assemblies, whole school celebrations and community/school-based events will be suspended, but reviewed throughout the year based on directions from the Chief Public Health Officer and Manitoba Education.
• Specialist teachers, when possible, will move itinerantly to classrooms to provide instruction to reduce student movement, and possible congestion in the hallways.
• When possible, Physical Education classes will be held outdoors.
• The maximum cohort size will be no larger than 75 students. Each cohort will arrive, depart and participate in school activities without co-mingling with members from other cohorts.
• Contact sports and games, or the use of shared equipment is strongly discouraged.
For students in Kindergarten to Grade 5:
• Each cohort will not interact with other cohorts throughout the school day.
• Initiatives such as Buddy Reading, intramurals, cross grade peer tutoring and other activities that involve potential cohort mixing will be suspended.
• In larger schools, the use of multi-purpose rooms, libraries and gymnasiums will be planned to assist in separating and managing cohorts.
• Recesses and lunches will be staggered in larger schools to reduce gatherings.
For students in Grades 6 to 8:
• Each cohort will not interact with other cohorts throughout the school day.
• Initiatives such as intramurals, clubs, cross-grade peer tutoring and other activities that involve potential cohort mixing will be suspended.
• Locker use will be suspended.
• Transportation for Industrial Arts and Human Ecology (Ethelbert, Ochre River and Gilbert Plains Elementary) will be suspended at the start of the school year and will be reviewed on a regular basis.
• During regularly scheduled Industrial Arts and Human Ecology classes for the identified schools, teachers will provide distance learning by video conference or MS Teams where possible.
For students in Grades 9 to 12 some common approaches have been adopted:
• Cleaning protocols for tools and shared equipment will meet public health guidelines.
• Some electives may be cancelled to assist each school in providing a blended learning approach with an emphasis on core curriculum.
• In classes with low enrolment (under 15 students) teachers may be asked to provide an online or VC option for students across the division to take the course to mitigate the impact of the cancellation of some school-based electives.
• In larger schools, the use of multipurpose rooms, libraries and gymnasiums will be planned to assist in separating and managing cohorts.
• Locker use will be suspended.
• Break times and lunches will be staggered in larger schools to reduce gatherings.
• Fitness rooms will remain closed until further notice.
• Transportation for Industrial Arts and Human Ecology (Ethelbert and Gilbert Plains Collegiate) will be suspended.
• During regularly scheduled Industrial Arts and Human Ecology classes for the identified schools, teachers will provide distance learning by video conference or MS Teams where possible.
• Cross transportation between Gilbert Plains and Grandview will also be suspended until further notice and remote learning introduced where feasible.
The plan also outlines strategies surrounding speciality programming such as technology education programming, extracurricular and music options and school libraries; school transportation; ventilation of buildings; blended learning; personal risk factors; recovery learning; response to mental health and wellbeing; and a contingency plan for the suspension of in-class learning.
The entire plan can be viewed at www.mvsd.ca.
Questions regarding the lan can be directed to Ward by telephone at 204-638-3001 or by email at dan.ward@mvsd.ca.