‘So far, so good’ for partial return to school, says Winnipeg teacher

By | June 5, 2020

Outside Winnipeg’s Constable Edward Finney School, smiling students arrive with their backpacks and parents, for health screening.

Teacher Manon Kent asks each parent if the child has had a fever, cough, diarrhea or nausea, whether they have travelled out of province, and if they have come in contact with anyone known to have COVID-19.

It’s all part of the new routine since Manitoba schools partially reopened June 1, allowing schools to welcome students back for one-on-one or small group instruction, assessments and other limited programming.

It’s off to a positive start, staff and students at the Maples-area school say.

“They’ve been having a lot of fun with each other. They’re respecting the distances as best they can,” said Kent. “So far, so good.”

After Kent’s kindergarten students are screened, they get a dollop of hand sanitizer before putting on their butterfly wings.

“They help me fly,” said Paolo Perez, 6.

They also help young children gauge how to keep their distance from each other — if your wing tips are touching, you’re too close. 

Making the wings was the class’s first project this week — an idea inspired by young students in China, Kent said.

Kindergarten student Paolo Perez says it feels good to be back at school. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The morning at Constable Edward Finney begins outdoors with songs and dancing, each student assigned to sit on a red, numbered marker —another way to observe physical distance.

Kent says she has to offer plenty of reminders throughout the day, but she is impressed with how students are adjusting to the new routines.

Principal Karen Hiscott says so far no students have arrived at school sick, but one student did develop a headache and nausea during the day, and was sent home out of an abundance of caution.

If ever a staff member or student tested positive for COVID-19, the school would be contacted by the province, she added.

A kindergarten student is given a squirt of hand sanitizer. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

Overall, Hiscott says the first week back has gone well.

“It’s been good. I can tell there’s a sense of excitement, everyone’s so happy to see each other — even from a distance,” she said. “At the same time, it’s been an exhausting week.”

Hiscott says the last few weeks have been a learning curve. Preparing the school to reopen by spacing out desks and installing sanitizing stations, signs and floor markers was the easy part, she said.

“The hard part is the mental health side of things — creating the conditions in which people themselves feel safe.”

Kindergarten students play a game while standing on markers on the playground to help keep them apart. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Hiscott said staff, students and parents are feeling a range of emotions about the return to school this month. Some are eager and excited, while others are fearful.

“People are in different places in their comfort level and how they’ve coped through the pandemic.”

She hopes this month will allow the school work out any challenges before the next school year.

There is no word when schools will officially reopen to students, but it could be as early as Aug. 31, the premier has previously said.

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