Calgary school implements creative solution to promote physical distancing

Thousands of Calgary kids are headed back to classrooms this week after an extended hiatus due to COVID-19. With new health guidelines in place — some schools are getting creative with how they’re promoting physical distancing.

When students arrive at Eric Harvie school in Tuscany over the course of the week, they’ll each be handed a hula hoop when they walk in the door. 

School principal Lorraine Kinsman says for a Kindergarten to Grade 4 school, the hoops are a familiar way to enforce a fairly foreign concept: physical distancing.

“It’s not forever. They will get used for hula hoop contests eventually. But in the beginning, especially for the younger ones, it’s a nice way for them to physically be able to think, ‘you know, I need to stay away from the  person in front of me. I can’t hug every teacher I see,'” she said.

Students will be encouraged to carry their hoops when traveling in the hallways, moving about classrooms and when working in groups away from their desks. 

“If the children have chosen space to sit on the floor when they’re working with the teacher, they can put the hoop around them in that confined space that they’re working in,” she said, adding that an additional hoop would be placed between two people to achieve the full two meters.

Marie Gailer has a daughter entering Grade 4 at Eric Harvie.    

“I think it’s creative, I think with the hula hoops being light, that they’re also mobile,” she said. 

But, Gailer said she knows it will take some getting used to.

“Some kids that I’ve  talked to, my daughter’s friends, they’re still kind of trying to wrap their heads around ‘how do we use them? How do we hold them, and our stuff and get around in a place that we’re used to being able to just go without having to think about the distance between us?,” she said. “So it’s going to be a shift in thinking and in habits for sure.”

Teachers at Eric Harvie School demonstrate using hula hoops to help with physical distancing in classrooms. (CBC)

The hula hoops will be left in large bins at school after the last bell and sanitized at the start of each day before being redistributed.

Kinsman said there have been lots of conversations with teachers and parents about this idea.

“We’ve talked about things like how we are sanitizing them in the morning and how will that happen? What if somehow you pick up somebody else’s hoop during the day?” she said, 

“Do we write the children’s names on one hoop and that’s your hoop? Or do we just get a different sanitized hoop every morning? So we’re still working through some of those issues.”

For other children, particularly the smaller ones, Kinsman said it’ll be difficult for to carry the hoop and walk at the same time.

“We may have to work with some of the younger ones who are not physically as adept at carrying a hoop and walking. That could be a skill that we need to learn. So we’re going to adapt it for the children as they need it.”

The principal said right now she’s optimistic, but doesn’t know for sure if the hoops will be a success.

“I think every school is doing their very best to keep kids safe, and this is just one idea that we came up with and trying to make it a little bit fun at the same time. We might have to go to something else. A lot of this is trial and error as we go,” said Kinsman.

“If this doesn’t work, we can have a little hula hoop contest and a big dance party.”

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