Arrows on the floor mark the one-way directions for students walking the hallways of Monterey middle school.
The return to school isn’t the same, and no one expected it would be.
“If you want to go the bathroom, you might need to do a lap around the long way,” Monterey principal Ken Andrews explains. “We are lucky here, the way the school is set up, we can organize the hallways into loops.”
These traffic pattern guidelines come from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and the district’s own Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee.
In advance of June’s optional return to on-campus learning on a rotational basis, Principal @KenAndrewsEduc gives Monterey families a brief virtual tour of how we’re set up to support to COVID-19 safety procedures. @sd61schools @SD61Learn https://t.co/cnwTT4oqlR
— Monterey Middle (@MontereyStorm) May 22, 2020
It’s all in preparation for the Greater Victoria School District’s (SD61) June 1 return to school, when it welcomes back all students on an optional basis. These are in addition to the current student population of 1,100 (of 20,000 total) whose parents and guardians are essential service workers (ESW), or whose livelihood and education has been particularly vulnerable during COVID-19.
Some schools are currently at 80 for ESW children while some are below 10.
“They’ll grow as businesses open,” Green said.
However, not all are expected to return, and for those who do, school will be part-time on a “rotational basis,” said superintendent Shelley Green. Children of essential service workers can attend full time, if needed, while rotational students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 can attend two full days a week. Grade 6 to 12 rotational students will be invited to attend around 20 per cent of the week, which is one day or could be two half days.
That number will vary based on needs, Green added.
“It’s not necessarily based on a maximum of students per room, but rather it’s based on space between students, traffic patterns and total numbers,” Green said. “The students will experience things [such as] how you line up outside the grocery stores.”
For instance, not all students are expected back.
Students at Monterey middle school pass the soccer ball around a circle on May 22, one of the approved interactive games. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
“[We’re hearing] some families are happy to keep the kids, they’re in a nice routine and will finish the year from home,” Green said. “So we’re anticipating that we’ll have enough space.”
While schools in SD61 did remain open throughout the COVID-19 crisis to the children of essential service workers, all schools reopened May 19 with an expanded list of students in ESW families. It’s this transition period that directional lines and other protocols can be tested to ensure spacing.
And for students struggling with difficult high school courses or children who have additional learning needs, schools have made efforts to provide additional learning time, Green said. There were already vulnerable children brought back to Monterey and other schools, “those kids who weren’t coping well,” Andrews said.
There are many cases of teachers checking in regularly who will also be able to provide additional face-to-face teaching for those struggling with challenging classes.
“Some of the more specific courses are challenging,” Green said. “I think about what it was like in Math 12 for me, and others, who need that additional tutoring. It’s been difficult probably for some of our high school students to stay on target, so they might have an opportunity to come in for that added time.”
While there is also concern about the financial impact on the district’s international student program, which is a revenue generator, what those impacts are is still to come, Green said.
“We didn’t lay anyone off, we kept all staffing intact and worked through [the COVID-19 pause] with everybody,” Green said. “With international students, [COVID-19] has curtailed the number of students. We’re still receiving interest [for the program] and will follow safety guidelines for that.”
Until then, the district is hoping the number of staff retirements this summer could offset the losses from the international revenue, Green said.