Who heads back to class in September? A look at school reopenings by province

By | July 29, 2020

TORONTO — As Canada deals with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, students and teachers are preparing to face a very different school year come September. But the return to the classroom and the precautions in place will vary depending on where you live.

Here is a look at how the back-to-school season will vary by province.

Click on the provinces for details, or scroll down for more information. Can’t see the map? Click here for the full experience.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Though B.C.’s education minister has told students to prepare for a return to the classroom come fall, the province is still working out the finer details, noting that more than one plan is required due to the unpredictability of the virus.

In mid-July, Minister Rob Fleming noted the province is moving ahead with plans to get “as many kids in the school system as possible.” He said elementary and middle school students should expect a full return to school, noting that the elementary system was further ahead because of the voluntary, part-time return to school in June.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring told CTV News Vancouver it’s more likely that school will return in stages with part-time instruction.

The province is still working out a plan for secondary students. However, Fleming noted some school districts are already planning for a different return to high school by changing bell schedules and semesters to account for physical distancing.

ALBERTA

Students in Alberta will head back to the classroom with full-time schedules in September, with a number of new health measures in place, including grouping students in cohorts to limit contact, staggering start times for classes, recesses and lunches, and daily COVID-19 screening questionnaires. Class sizes, however, will not be limited.

Should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur, affected schools could move to partial in-class learning or at-home learning.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said parents won’t be forced to send their kids to school if they don’t feel it’s safe. However, it would be up to the parents to work with the school to develop a plan for their child’s at-home learning.

SASKATCHEWAN

In June, Saskatchewan announced that in-classroom learning will resume in the fall, releasing a set of guidelines to help school divisions prepare. But the bulk of the planning will fall to school divisions and school boards.

The Saskatchewan Education Response Planning Team is currently in the process of reviewing draft plans developed by school divisions. The ministry expects to provide the divisions with feedback on their submitted plans before the end of July. Divisions will then share their return-to class plan with their local school communities.

According to the provincial guidelines, staff, parents and students are encouraged to limit physical contact, but the note that physical distancing is “less practical” for younger students. Although the province says general use containers need to be available, students and staff are encouraged have their own hand sanitizer on hand.

In a statement to CTV News, Regina Public Schools said it’s looking at protective screens, water bottle fillers and even air purifying systems for the upcoming school year, but note that distribution of these items will be tied to school enrolment and staff numbers.

MANITOBA

Students from kindergarten to Grade 12 are set to return to class on Sept. 8 in Manitoba, but the province has three possible return-to-school scenarios in place, depending on the COVID-19 situation in fall.

Those scenarios include returning to in-class learning under near-normal conditions, returning to in-class learning while taking additional public health measures into consideration, and remote learning from home with limited use of school facilities.

The final decision will be made by Aug. 1.

Educational officials noted that there may be a greater shift to at-home learning, based on provincial recommendations that children stay home if they feel sick or have underlying health conditions.

ONTARIO

While the provincial government is “finalizing the health protocols” for the resumption of school in September, Ontario school boards have also been asked to prepare three separate plans for the resumption of classes.

Those models include online learning only, a hybrid model with children attending classes in-person on alternating days or weeks, and the full-time resumption of in-person instruction.

Ontario’s school boards have until Aug. 4 to submit those plans. But officials have promised more guidance on class resumption this week, including “consistent standards” to be implemented province-wide on things like seating arrangements and the mask wearing.

While Premier Doug Ford has said that he wants students to return to school full-time in September provided it is safe to do so, he has also proposed parents be open to more unorthodox ideas to keep kids safe, such as holding class outdoors.

QUEBEC

With full-time classes set to resume in September, Quebec’s plan includes dividing classes up to Grade 9 into “bubble groups” of up to six students who will not have to physically distance from each other.

These bubble groups will have to maintain a two-metre distance from other students and staff whenever possible. Teachers will move between classrooms based on the subject being taught, and students will remain in the same classroom.

Students in Grades 10 and 11 can chose to either form their own bubble and attend school full-time or use an alternating schedule, attending school at least every second day with the same class of students, while participating in at-home learning.

It’s not yet clear whether entire “bubbles” of students would be sent home if one becomes sick, or if someone in the family of one of the students is sick.

NEW BRUNSWICK

In New Brunswick, full-time learning will be mandatory, but will look different depending on a student’s grade level.

Students from kindergarten to Grade 8 will attend school full-time in groups of up to 15. Those groups will attend class, socialize and enter the school together, maintaining distance from other groups.

High school students will be required to attend class a minimum of every other day, with reduced class sizes. The province is also providing financial support for students to purchase their own laptops to bring to class.

NOVA SCOTIA

All students in Nova Scotia will return to school in September with increased health and safety protocols. Classrooms will also be reorganized to increase spacing, and classes will be treated as a bubble, to minimize contact with other students.

In-school assemblies and other large gatherings will not be permitted. As well, cafeterias and school food programs will deliver food to students, and students will eat lunch at their desks.

High school students will be required to wear a mask in school spaces where social distancing is not possible, such as in hallways and common areas. Masks will not be mandatory in class.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Full-time classes will also resume in P.E.I., where staff will receive training on how to maintain health and safety protocols within classrooms to mitigate infections.

Parents are being encouraged to drive their kids to and from school to reduce the number of passengers on school buses. Drop-off and pickup times, as well as lunch breaks and recess will also be staggered to avoid crowding.

When available, class sizes will be reduced in order to accommodate distancing and students will work in cohorts or bubbles.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

Newfoundland and Labrador’s back-to-school plan aims to return to full-time in-class attendance with the option of a return to remote learning or hybrid model if the COVID-19 risk increases.

Individual school districts will determine what scenarios work best for their schools and are responsible for configuring classrooms and other spaces to maintain physical distancing and developing protocols for hygiene and for isolating students who become ill.

The Education Department aims to limit classroom attendance to 50 per cent when the COVID-19 risk is considered low to moderate. Priority will be given to students in kindergarten through Grade 6, kids who have special needs, and for children of essential workers.

Students and staff will also be required to go over a COVID-19 exposure and symptom checklist before entering a school.

TERRITORIES

In Nunavut, schools will reopen in September with few changes, provided the territory continues to be free of COVID-19.

In the Northwest Territories, school is set to resume but students and staff will undergo daily COVID-19 screening and maintain physical distance with the help of new classroom configurations. The territory has also mandated staggered recess periods and that students wear masks when on busses.

In Yukon, each school will be responsible for adjusting operations to meet provincial guidelines, including physical distancing and reduced class sizes. School officials are expected to share reopening details with the government before September.

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