Elementary schools opened

DARIUS SHAHHEYDARI
PONTIAC May 13 2020
School boards in the region have revealed their health safety measures on premises, as well as the expected attendances in accordance with the reopening of elementary schools this week.
Each Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) school will be provided with hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, masks, protective glasses and a thermometer according to Pascal Proulx, director of buildings, technology and transportation.
The schools of Commission Scolaire des Haut-Bois-de-l’Outaouais (CSHBO) will have all this at hand but the thermometer, which, according to general manager Denis Rossignol, was not recommended in Santé Publique directives.
“We have over 1,000 pairs of gloves in every school,” said Proulx. “We are going to also provide white plastic bags to dispose of all of the equipment and also some social distancing labels to remind people to keep their distance.”
Tables with hand sanitizers will be set up at the doors of the schools, washrooms will be disinfected at least five times during the school day and any contact points will be disinfected. Proulx is also in the process of training cleaning staff on the new cleaning protocols.
Adding to this, each school in both school boards will have an isolation room with PPE and a thermometer.
“We established protocols for personnel to identify symptoms for possible COVID-19 cases in schools,” said WQSB General Director Mike Dubeau.
Protocols have also been established with staff at both school boards in case somebody has tested positive for the virus, as well as with Santé Publique in case someone with symptoms needs to be isolated at school.
Furthermore, all WQSB staff who request personal protective equipment (PPE) will receive it.
“Although not recommended by public health, students may wear a mask but must follow the established guidelines for wearing any PPE,” said Dubeau.
WQSB Assistant Director General Ruth Ahern said students will be shown videos on how to use and dispose of PPE.
Designated areas in the WQSB and CSHBO classrooms for the students will be taped off and lockers will be off limits, with students having their belongings in bags or boxes by their desks and there will be an eye kept on the students to prevent them from sharing any books or equipment, and if the latter is shared, then it will be disinfected.
“I’ve been in a few classrooms to look at the organization, a lot of the extra furniture has been removed, so some of the classes are pretty stark,” said Dubeau.
There will be a schedule made to minimize interactions between groups of students, which encompasses seperate recess times, bathroom breaks and the use of facilities.
“Students will not be travelling from room to room - nor will staff,” said Dubeau. “They will be assigned a room for the day.”
Third grade teacher Gaston Allard said, however, that this is not always the case. His workplace, Primary School Poupore in Fort-Coulonge, will not be having seperate recess times because they are not a big enough school.
Allard said students and teachers must also respect the same distancing measures in the school yard, however, there are exceptions.
“Obviously, if the kid is in danger or hurt, we will intevene,” said Allard.
Cafeterias and gymnasiums can only be used as classrooms and designated exit and entry points of the school have been established, with no visitors or anyone other than the required personnel, such as the maintenance staff and teachers, having access to the buildings.
“There are very, very few cases where we need to send in a contractor because there’s major work happening in the school, but all protocols will be followed and any outside contractors will be with a WQSB employee, when possible after school and they will be obeying all the distancing rules,” said Dubeau.
He also said that their elementary classes will be limited to 10 students instead of the province-wide directive of 15, as the school board believes they could only achieve optimal safety with this limit and in some classrooms that are deemed too small, the limit may be lower.
CSHBO decided the limit could stay at 15 students, but may also drop depending on whether or not pupils could keep the two-metre distancing required.
Sixteen WQSB schools will have a PD Day on Monday for training and information sessions with staff, with Noranda School opening to students on Monday.
The overall student attendance at WQSB schools is 14.2 per cent, with Dr. Wilbert Keon School having 11 students, St. John’s Elementary eight, Dr. S.E. McDowell 43 and Onslow Elementary School just one.
“Many parents have decided not to send their children to school, and we certainly understand and support their decisions,” said Dubeau. “It’s complex, it’s not just whether ‘Do I send my kids to school or not?’ There’s a lot of things that parents are dealing with and students are dealing with.”
CSHBO has 32 per cent of their students back, with Petit-Pont having 148 students, Notre-Dame Sacre Coeur 19, l’Envolée 23, Poupore 51, St-Anne 37 and St-Marie 75 students respectively.
Some staff in the WQSB elementary sector have handed in requests for exemptions asking to continue to stay home, of which 143 were medical exemptions and 94 were family leave. Exempted individuals make up 34 per cent of the staff, some of which will be teleworking.
At CSHBO, around 20 per cent of staff have made this request.
“It’s important to note that the teacher that students had in January or March may or may not be the same teacher they will have coming back in May, but the parents will be made aware of what teacher their children will have for the remainder of the year,” said Dubeau.
CSHBO will have 21 per cent of all employees working from home since they are “at risk”, according to Rossignol . The other 79 per cent will be either going to school or or also working from home sometimes if they do not need to show up to work.
“For the kids who are staying at home, some teachers or some people are going to call every week to make sure they have work or if they have questions, to help them,” said Rossignol.
Over at the WQSB, Ahern said school members will be prepared to restart teaching.
According to WQSB’s Director of Complimentary Services Lisa Falasconi, local health services CISSSO have video training prepared for staff.
“The staff will watch that video and then there are Zoom sessions set up with all of our teachers for further training and for any particular questions and if any of the staff want to arrange a meeting without health care teachers, they can arrange that as well,” said Ahern.
“The protocols were established to help staff look for symptoms and give them a step-by-step of how to use the isolation room, how to contact parents, who to contact in the event of a student or staff member who are [presenting] symptoms and also what follow-up those families would have once they leave the building, as well as upon what conditions the student or staff member can return,” said Falasconi.
Allard said that this video will reinforce will reinforce the measure’s goal
“The students are pretty good [in their health habits] because the parents have done a good job with them,” said Allard. “But we teach it so they have as little chance as possible of contracting COVID-19.”
Falasconi said guidelines were also made to adapt to students with special needs and Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
“We do have students that need more direct intervention, so staff must be wearing PPEs in those situations - the goggles, potentially a gown, the gloves and a mask,” said Falasconi.
Dubeau said that, considering all of this information, students are returning to a very different environment.
“The school of January 2020 is not the school of May 2020,” said Dubeau.

School buses are back on the road, a sight not seen since March 13.

 

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