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MVSD Excited For The Return Of Students


When students head back to Mountain View School Division (MVSD) classrooms this week, Dan Ward hopes it is the start of an uninterrupted, as near normal year as possible.

“We’re welcoming back all of our students for in-person learning this year and we’re hopeful and optimistic that we’re going to be back for the entire year for in-person learning without disruption,” the MVSD superintendent/CEO said.

MVSD is still working closely with public health, however, as the threat of a fourth wave of COVID infections looms. MVSD will be monitoring COVID cases within its schools, and Ward expects if someone in the school community attends school during their infectious period, public health will conduct contact tracing.

“We still have COVID-9 protocols in place,” Ward said, adding all students, from Kindergarten to Grade 12 will be required to wear a mask unless they have a bona fide medical exemption.

He added the division will also still be emphasizing good hand hygiene practices, having teachers and students stay home when they are not feeling well, even if the symptoms are mild. MVSD will also still emphasize social distancing, he said.

“So we’re not back to full normal. There’s certainly going to be less emphasis on things like co-operative learning and group work,” Ward said. “But that being said all of the programs that we typically run in a given year - everything from reading recovery to technology education - will be running.”

Ward said there will be a staggered start to the year at some schools this week with some students starting on Wednesday and some heading back on Thursday.

“At Mackenzie, the Grade 6s will be having an orientation day and then the Grade 7s and 8s will start the next day,” he said. “So we’re advising parents to still check their school websites. We sent out information prior to the start of the school year and at the end of last year. But it’s always a good reminder to check that out to make sure that Wednesday is your start day or Thursday, depending on what school you attend.”

Preparations for the return of students to the classroom have been ongoing throughout the summers. One of the recent developments is a testing and vaccine mandate for all division staff put in place by the province.

Staff are required to be fully vaccinated - two shots and two weeks - by the end of October if they want to avoid frequent COVID testing, up to three times per week.

“So it is not an absolute requirement for all divisional staff to be immunized, but staff that choose not to disclose their immunization status will be required to be tested on a frequent basis,” WARD said. “We still don’t know all of the logistical details, especially around the testing. We did raise the question with the central government, essentially the same week it was announced, around testing, especially for rural schools and rural communities, because we know now that testing is not available in all of our communities. So certainly that question has been posed and there is planning work that is happening right now on that file and we’re anticipating more information as we move into the school year.”

Ward said there has been questions from some staff around the mandate and he expects there will be staff that will likely choose not to disclose their vaccination status and will be looking at how to proceed with the testing option.

“We’re encouraging anyone eligible to be vaccinated. And anyone wishing to avoid the testing mandate would have to have their first shot by Sept. 7,” Ward said, adding questions about the testing option such as cost and who is responsible for that cost remain outstanding. “Those details are still being worked out and we’re still working with central government over some of those.”

The division is hoping to be able to answer those questions and others during a Zoom townhall meeting Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m.

“For anyone interested in learning more about our reopening plans or if they had any questions about the division’s approach to our COVID-19 protocols,” Ward said, adding individual schools will be providing more information about building specific initiatives such as exit and entrance strategies to avoid crowding and lunch hour guidelines.”

The townhall, Ward said, is the kickoff to what he expects to be an exciting and successful year of learning.

“There’s lots of optimism. And I’ve talked to lots of families,” he said. “I think I could characterize the general feeling as very positive and optimistic. Especially considering that, in Dauphin in particular, we were in remote learning for the latter part of the year last school year, there is lots of enthusiasm to come back to school.”