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Parents should feel comfortable with return to school measures, says school board

With the start of the school year on the horizon, parents should feel comfortable with the safety measures put in place, says the Waterloo Region District School Board.

Sanitization and additional transmission-prevention methods have now been instated. There are some adaptations and guidance still being passed from the provincial government to the board, but the organization is ready for students to return starting next week, says board spokesperson Alana Russell.

There will be visible changes when the kids head back to class, she notes.

“The main difference is an increase, especially in elementary [schools], in health and safety procedures and protocols,” said Russell.

Throughout the schools, there will now be hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations, including in classrooms. General health and safety information will also be posted and available through the board’s facilities. And wayfinding materials directing traffic through the school will help students have limited contact points throughout the building other than within their own classroom.

“What that means is they will be having controlled entry to the school in the morning. So, you’re used to seeing that rush of students coming into the into the school when the bell rings – that will be a controlled process bringong them  gradually into their classrooms. They will remain in their classroom even for their nutrition break where they’ll eat their lunch and their snacks. And they will have potentially staggered recess breaks. They won’t have access to playground equipment [and] shared equipment, “ Russell explained.

With masks now mandatory for all students attending WDRSB schools, up to five facial coverings will be provided per student.

“If a student forgets their mask at home or doesn’t have one available, we also he will have disposable masks available at the schools as well as on the bus,” she said.

Russell notes that the board’s decision to make masks mandatory for all grades as opposed to the provincial government’s plan of grades 4 and upward will “not necessarily be enforced.”

“We’re going to be promoting it with kindness. and wanting to engage with sort of learning how to use a mask and how to put it on take it off when it’s appropriate to wear it with all of our learners.”

Details for students unable to wear facial coverings due to medical reasons are yet to be determined. However, a concern for younger children unable to wear a mask properly does exist.

With that, parents also have a role, said Russell, suggesting parents should talk to their kids about situations where some younger children can’t wear masks, a pre-emptive move to avoid jealousy or bullying.

“Every individual’s scenario is going to be different in what they’re able to do, comfortable and capable doing. So, all of those decisions will be made in the best interest of each and every one of our students,” she said.

In preparing for what to do in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, the board is waiting on guidance from Region of Waterloo Public Health, which is in turn awaiting advice from the province.

“We have done everything to prevent and mitigate risks associated with attending in person. And we’ll be providing a virtual tour hopefully later this week of a sample Elementary in a sample secondary class so that parents can visualize it will also be really saying information about how to best prepare for the new school day, given our new health and safety standards so that parents feel comfortable and confident and ready to return into the school year,” said Russell.

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