Coronavirus: Here’s what Saskatoon schools will look like when kids return Sept. 8

School’s back Sept. 8, and what children are walking into will be very different from the norm amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The day starts at “muster points” — flags with a teacher’s name set up outside. They act as designated drop off and pick up spots. They’re also where students wait before going inside after things like recess.

Sanitizer is everywhere, including when people enter the building. Students also get spray bottles of sanitizer for going to gym or to clean off equipment before and after using it.

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Parents and guardians are asked to stay outside or call the front office if they need to come in. They’ll have to wear a mask, fill out a questionnaire and sign in with a QR code.

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Anyone who isn’t a regular student or staff will have to do the same.

Students and teachers are being cohorted, meaning they’re kept in small groups such as their own class and don’t mingle with the rest of the school. The public school division has put extracurricular activities on hold for the time being to make sure students don’t mix after class and undo all the work being done.

“We have certain bathrooms allotted to certain grades, and they become their own cohort or bubble,” said Miranda Low, principal at Sylvia Fedoruk School.

“For example, our two Grade 1 classrooms, they are a cohort, so they’ll play together at recess but they’ll also use the same washrooms. They’ll cross paths because their hallway is right outside of those classrooms.”

Read more: Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation says members should avoid extracurricular activity

Recesses are split into two with only half the school going out at a time.

Classes can look a couple of ways. In some, desks are spaced out as much as possible to still fit a class size similar to past years, and they’re kept front-facing.

In other classrooms, students are in small groups with tape marking their own space.

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“You’ll see much fewer things in the classrooms in terms of furniture just to reduce the clutter, reduce touch points,” said Francois Rivard, superintendent of education for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.

Students are given bins for storing things like crayons so they don’t share.

When tools like laptops that are shared among students, those are assigned to smaller groups and sanitized before and after each use.

Water fountains are only open for water bottles.

Charlene Scrimshaw is the Saskatoon Public Schools’ deputy director. She told reporters if a student starts showing symptoms of COVID-19 they’re put into isolation rooms until someone can take them home.

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“We’re asking families if in fact you have a child that goes home because they have symptoms would you please call 811 and follow then the recommendations of the health folks,” she said.

Kids must be symptom-free for 48 hours before returning to class. If someone tests positive, Scrimshaw said that will be handled by the health authority and the school will be the messenger letting people know what’s going on.

She said in the case of a positive case, the decision whether the school should close will be made by the health authority.

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Schools have increased their sanitation schedules, cleaning multiple times a day. Some schools also have new machines that can clean a room in about 10 minutes.

Divisions are expected to hear back about funding requests to the province next week. That money could go toward funding more teachers or education assistants, cleaning staff, and personal protective equipment.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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