UK: Q+A: London-area education directors express confidence in back-to-school plan

UK/August 18, 2020/By: Heather Rivers/ Source:

Almost 100,000 London-area students will return to the classroom Sept. 8. This week both the Thames Valley District and London District Catholic school boards unveiled their detailed back-to-school plans. Here’s how the public board’s top official Mark Fisher and Catholic director Linda Staudt think they can succeed.

Do you feel confident with this new plan? Why?

M.F.: “Yes. We have consulted extensively with local health units and the Education Ministry. We know it’s impossible to eliminate all risk, but we believe in the importance of starting school in September for both mental and academic well-being.”

L.S.: “We do. In our community and province the numbers of (coronavirus) are decreasing. The health officials have been pretty clear that is your best front line. If it isn’t in the community, then it’s not going to get into the schools.”

Can you clarify what will happen if a child shows symptoms of COVID-19?

M.F: “If at school they display symptoms, they will go into an isolation room and their parents contacted immediately and go in for testing. If they test positive, they will be quarantined for 14 days. Even if they test negative, they will have to wait 24 hours until they are symptom-free.”

L.S.: “We have a pretty strict protocol. There are isolation areas and we are immediately calling the parent so that the student can leave. We also have access to nurses, if that should happen.”

What about grave concerns over larger classes in elementary schools? How many kids will be in each classroom and how will social distancing be enforced?

M.F.: “We’ve been directed by the Education Ministry to open in a full conventional model. Roughly 10 per cent (of parents) will elect for full distancing learning, so that will reduce class sizes. We’re doing our best within the budget limitations that we have. We know smaller class sizes are more effective. We have a ton of other strategies to keep kids safe.”

L.S.: “Classes could be up to high 20s in some of our schools. We are trying to maximize the distancing so the arrangement of the desks is being spread out. The two metres will be more difficult with the elementary, but combined with masking, it will mitigate that. With the added precaution of bubbling, it offsets the fact the classes are bigger.”

How will you incorporate masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene into your daily routines?

M.F: “We’re putting together training videos. Teachers are in the first week of September for extensive training. The first week of school will be all around new routines.”

LS.: “Signage and hand sanitizer will be everywhere. All staff as well as those students in Grades 4 and up will be wearing masks. Students won’t be congregating in halls or outside lockers and there won’t be school assemblies or school masses. In addition, extra furniture has been removed from classes and anything students bring to school in the morning will have to go home with them in the afternoon..”

For families who decide to educate their children remotely, will you supply them the technology and data they require?

M.F: “Yes. We have ordered thousands more devices, which we hope to deploy in the hands of students for the first week of school.”

LS.:  “We will do the same as in the spring. Students who do not have the technology available to them, we lent out Chromebooks . . . In some remote areas in county, the internet was difficult. We were able to provide them iPhones that had a data plan on it.”

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UK: Q+A: London-area education directors express confidence in back-to-school plan – Sarraute Educación María Magdalena

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