Revelstoke is getting ready to go back-to-school.
“We’re excited and apprehensive,” said school district superintendent Mike Hooker.
Each of the province’s 60 school districts has developed a slightly different back to school plan.
Schools were initially scheduled to welcome students back full-time on Sept. 8, but the province pushed the restart date back two days to Sept. 10.
Since Revelstoke classes are already small, Hooker said class sizes will be similar in size to the prior year.
While the province does not require students and staff to wear masks, the Ministry of Education recommends non-medical masks to be worn when physical distancing isn’t possible, such as in hallways and buses.
Hooker said the schools are working on plans to reduce crowding in hallways and buses so masks will not be required.
He anticipates there will be a higher usage of staff wearing masks as they do come in contact with many students.
Parents and students are asked to monitor for sickness with students asked to remain home if they fall ill.
Another change will be that no guests or visitors will be allowed at the schools without prior approval.
Hooker anticipates most students in Revelstoke will return to school.
Hooker said more classes will be held outside this year and to assist with that objective the school board has purchased tents.
Some lessons will change, however, such as gym.
For example, it’s unlikely high school students will learn ballroom dancing, said Hooker, as it involves touching.
Instead, the class might focus on square dancing.
Revelstoke parent Bree Hunter said she’s really happy her six-year-old daughter is going back to school this fall.
“We’re ready. We want to see some sort of normalcy.”
She said having her child home during the spring and trying to work at the same time was extremely difficult.
“I have a newfound respect for teachers,” Hunter said.
Hunter said she isn’t worried about her daughter returning to school in regards to COVID-19.
“The virus isn’t worth limiting our children’s education.”
Another parent, Rana Nelson, has three children returning to school. She said schools might actually be safer than where her children worked this summer, such as the ski hill, which sees high tourist visitation.
“I’m feeling fine about them going back to school.”
However, Leah Duthie has many concerns regarding her two kids returning to elementary school — one being that kids spread germs easily.
“Every time a child has a sniffle, will that require quarantining through the testing process? Will that mean the entire family, classmates and teachers as well?”
Duthie is also a school bus driver for Revelstoke.
She worries about the lasting impact of social distancing and wonders if children will now have difficulties in developing social skills.
“Will this be our new forever normal?”
Duthie said she’s terrified about the COVID-19 deniers and families who believe the pandemic is a hoax.
A recent McGill University study found conspiracy theories on COVID-19 are spreading at an alarming rate across the country. It warned misinformation shared online — mostly through Facebook and Twitter — may lead to devastating consequences and push Canadians to shun important safety measures, such as physical distancing and wearing masks.
Benefits beyond education
The provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the concerns associated with children not going back to school outweigh the risks of COVID-19.
“Keeping schools closed has a cost well beyond education,” she said in a press conference last month.
“For many children in this province, they don’t have the resources to work virtually. For many children in this province, being at school is where they get health care. It’s a safe place for them. It’s a place where they can get psychological support, where they may get a meal.”
The BC Centre for Disease Control said in July COVID-19 has a very low infection rate in children and most children are not at high risk.
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