Greater Trail’s largest school will see up to 800 students return to class today (Sept. 10), some tentative about in-class learning, and others excited about getting back to something familiar.
Greater Trail’s largest school will see up to 800 students return to class today (Sept.10), some tentative about in-class learning, and others excited about getting back to something familiar.
Students will undertake orientation Thursday and Friday then begin classes in earnest on Monday, Sept. 14. And while the new normal is definitely different, J. L. Crowe principal Aaron McKenzie says he is looking forward to the pending return.
“It’s been really good, because we have been working at it (this summer) for so long,” said McKenzie. “In 30 years it’s a very interesting start but it’s a good challenge.”
After COVID pandemic shutdown schools back in March, administration and staff transitioned to online learning, then made a brief return in June. But the September start is fully dedicated to renewing studies, albeit with many adjustments in the classroom and on the school grounds.
“The way we have set up for the ministry guidelines it’s about learning groups,” explained McKenzie. “That was a max of 120, but we have 155-to-170 kids per grade, so what we’re doing is actually separating each grade into learning group A and learning group B. Anytime they go into a class they’ll sit on the A side or B side.”
Education Minister Rob Fleming says the schools are prepared with improved ventilation, hand sanitizing and in some cases outdoor spaces for breaks and instruction.
“I know as a parent I’ve been getting all kinds of emails from the school principal about which entrances and exits your student must use, and staggered start times,” Fleming said in a CFAX interview. “So there’s a lot to absorb. Washing your hands, using portable hand sanitizing stations, paying attention to the bell schedules because they’re different for different students, staying in your learning group, physically distancing wherever possible, both in the classroom and especially in common areas, and wearing a mask if you’re a middle or secondary student who is needing to practice physical distancing outside of the learning group.”
In an effort to reduce movement and keep contact to a minimum, Crowe also transitioned from a semester-based curriculum to a quarterly schedule, “from a four-block day to a two-block day.”
The two morning blocks and the two afternoon blocks will each be one class, and, as a result, students can complete a subject/class in about 10 weeks rather than the five months of the semester system.
“We were really fortunate we could keep the same calendar, and all the kids could keep their classes, and that’s one of the bonuses,” explained McKenzie. “What we didn’t want to do was blow up all the kids’ timetables because they’re based on their choices and so we could maintain teaching assignments and students timetables while moving through the quarter system.”
Students will receive their first report cards five weeks into classes and their final evaluation in 10 weeks, before starting new classes at the end of November.
“All courses are based on hours of instruction, so we meet that 120 hours of instruction and we don’t have to change any course credits with the ministry or anything like that.”
Fewer class periods, means fewer interruptions during a school day, which reduces the amount of time that teachers spend on routine administrative or classroom-management tasks—such as taking attendance, handing out and collecting materials, or preparing for and wrapping up activities.
It also increases the total amount of time students are engaged in more meaningful and productive learning activities.
Scheduling fewer classes also reduces the burden on both teachers and students as they only need to prepare for two classes per day rather than four to six classes.
And McKenzie is confident that students and staff can maintain the protocols required by the provincial health authority and the School District 20 restart plan.
“Some of our kids came back in June, at a max of 40 per age group, but it was a totally different feeling then, now this is face-to-face instruction and not learning plans over zoom. Some parts are really feeling good and teachers are excited to get at the instruction and follow the curriculum.”
In June, the intent of the return to school was to get students involved, but on a voluntary basis. Approximately half of students returned to class, while others stayed at home.
“There are kids who haven’t been in engaged in over six months,” added McKenzie. “So that is going to be an adjustment for kids and teachers as well, but once we get back to something normal, I think it is going to move us ahead.”
Thursday will see Grade 8 students attend orientation claseess from 9-11 a.m. and Grade 9 students from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
On Friday, Grade 10 students go from 9-10:30 a.m., Grade 11 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Grade 12 from 1-2 p.m.
Classes commence on Sept. 14.
Check J. L. Crowe website, www.jlcrowe.org, for more information on return to school plan.