The first week back to school is just about in the books.
From staggered starts, to masks, to one-way hallways, it’s a new scene at schools unlike ever before.
The federal government is pledging another $260 million to help schools adapt, but the responsibility of guiding students day-to-day falls mainly on teachers.
To find out what it’s been like for them so far, CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener spoke Friday with two Calgary teachers.
Erin Richards, who teaches at a Calgary public middle school, has 26 students in what she calls “a smaller space,” so her students always wear their masks.
“It’s been awesome but very exhausting, there’s so much going on,” Richards said.
For one thing, Richards says, children are normally encouraged to interact but now they have to keep distant from one another as much as possible. The kids also can’t share supplies, and she says the teachers are just trying to keep up with all the new protocols coming in.
And little things, she says, like supervision at lunch, are now overwhelming tasks.
“It’s like trying to hold on to the tail of a tornado while you’re teaching. It’s a lot,” she said.
But Richards says her students are being good about wearing their masks, though a few reminders during recess breaks outside are needed to keep proper distance.
“The things they naturally want to do they can’t do,” Richards said, though she added it’s great for everyone to see each other again.
She says she is confident that the program in place for online learning will deliver what kids need if schools close again, even if it’s not preferred.
“I think that that process has now been ironed out,” she said.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to return to that but should we, I believe it’s ready.”
Colleen Wakeman, a Calgary Catholic School District junior high teacher, says she’s not overwhelmed, even though there is some trepidation.
“It’s good to be back in the school,” she said.
She says at her school, she feels there’s lots of direction on how to navigate the new school year.
“I’m feeling comfortable at this point,” she said.
“I’m anxious, everyone is anxious. But we have to be cautiously optimistic,” Wakeman said.
Wakeman says she’s never washed or sanitized her hands as much as she has now at school, and, fortunately, the kids have jumped on board with that, too.
While it is early days, she says everyone is watching each other to make sure masks are on properly and people are staying as distant as practical.
Be on guard
Wakeman is a band teacher and she says lessons will look much more different this year — and string instruments might be more popular.
On some days, weather permitting, the class might be able to play their instruments outside. As well, there’s been arrangements for kids to practise their playing at home, when possible.
- WATCH: Here’s what back to school looks like in some schools:
“We can do this and we can adapt, and I really feel an obligation to model to kids that when things aren’t great, you have to do your best,” Wakeman said.
“Looking forward to having my band play all together if we can get this virus under control.”
Wakeman says if her school has two active cases in a cohort, it will be considered an outbreak.
“We’re being careful to divide kids up, and interestingly enough, your seating plan has never been more important,” she said.
“We want to be able to tell Alberta Health exactly where a kid has been moving and who they’ve been interacting with.”
She says she wants parents and guardians to be prepared to move their kids to online learning in the worst-case scenario.
“Let’s not get caught off-guard the way we were in March,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of vigilance, for sure.”
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.