Schools in Greater Victoria are getting a makeover before optional in-class learning begins next week.
“It won’t look the same as when they left in late February and early March,” said Shelley Green, superintendent of the Greater Victoria School District (SD61). “We’ve gone to great lengths in all of our buildings to [figure] out what a classroom would look like with 6-feet distancing for students, how you’d walk down a hallway, what distance to go.”
The schools will be enforcing protocols like staggered start times, rotating schedules, smaller class sizes, frequent hand washing and physical distancing.
For example, when students enter Monterey Middle School in Oak Bay, they are expected to go straight to their classrooms, where they must wash their hands first before taking their seats.
Hallways now look like marked streets, with blue arrows on the ground directing traffic to flow one-way only.
“If a student needs to go to the washroom even, and the washroom is backtracking the wrong way of the loop, they have to actually go the longer way on the loop,” explained Ken Andrews, principal of Monterey Middle School.
“But that’s not a bad thing, we know that physical activity breaks are great for kids. Some kids sometimes say they need to go to the washroom just because they need a break,” he added, laughing.
In addition to the curriculum, students will have to learn how to move inside the school and navigate the hallways. Just like on the road, students will have to yield when entering a classroom.
“If I’m about to walk in and somebody’s coming out, then I’m going to yield to them,” Andrews said, noting they have right of way.
There are little markers next to the classroom where students can stand to maintain that distance while they wait for the person to exit the room.
“So, I’m going to back up to this line,” Andrews explained, stepping onto the marker. “It’s just for a second or two while this person walks out and they’re not going to pass me because they’re going [the other direction] in the one-way loop. Soon as they’re gone, I can walk in the room.”
Water fountains are taped off, with a sign above reading “Do not use. Bring a full water bottle from home.”
To visualize how much space six feet is, two-metre sticks are taped to the wall.
An eagle with its wings spread out and a medium-sized octopus made by students in art class adorn the walls, with signs reminding students to stay two metres, or the length of these things, apart from each other.
These changes inside the school come as the province enters stage three of its education restart plan.
The province is currently in stage four of the education plan, with in-class learning instruction for children of essential service workers and vulnerable students and remote learning for most others.
Starting in June, students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 will be in class on a part-time basis, with some access for grades 6 to 12.
For SD61, this means elementary students will be in class two days a week. That could be Monday and Wednesday, for example.
Middle school students will be there for half a day, two days a week. A schedule for a student in Grade 7 may have them in class Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon.
If students in high school are struggling with the material and require extra help, they will be able to come in for one-on-one teaching or in smaller groups.
Throughout all of this, students will continue learning online.
However, it’s not mandatory for students to resume in-class learning in June.
“It’s absolutely our parents’ choice,” said Green. “They have to feel that their children are safe. They have to understand what’s going on in the buildings. It’s not the same situation that it was previous to the pandemic and when we all moved into an online learning scenario. But it is safe. We’ve gone a long ways to make sure our buildings are safe.”