Lambton-Kent boards seeking parental input on reopening of schools

A row of lockers inside a school. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / kenhurst.

The public and Catholic school boards in Lambton-Kent are gathering feedback from parents on the safe reopening of schools in September.

They want to know whether parents are planning to return their child to school for in-person learning, or if they would prefer to keep them at home for online teacher-led studies.

Lambton-Kent District School Board Director John Howitt said that’s a long-term decision. Parents might not be able to change their minds because of class loads and cohorting. He understands some staff, parents and students will feel uneasy coming back to school, and adds they’ll have mental health supports in place.

“After being away and after being in a pandemic, there will be some apprehension,” said Howitt. “It’s an unknown and it’s an unknown that we need to face. We’ll be working with our staff on three professional development days before Labour Day, before students arrive, to help with both their apprehension and any apprehension that may exist for students.”

St. Clair Catholic District School Board Director Deb Crawford welcomes $309-million in funding across the province to help school buildings with cleaning and disinfecting. Teachers will be provided with access to masks, face shields, and cleaning supplies.

“I’m very pleased that there’s been an addition of public health nurses. Approximately 500 public health nurses will be added to support schools. That is a great and welcome addition. The province is also helping us with PPE, and there will be some extra support for custodians from what I understand,” she said.

“I think they’ve made a commitment today that any board that is in a position where they can’t manage to staff based on the individual situation of the board after they’ve tried everything, would apply to the ministry for support. Working with our public health partners, we are confident that our kids and staff will come back to school and it will be a safe and healthy environment for them.”

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced on Thursday that all elementary and secondary schools across both boards will be open this fall with full-time, in-class instruction.

In its Frequently Asked Questions, the public board said elementary students will stay in the same class throughout the day, playgrounds will have areas designated for each class to enjoy and schedules will be developed to access the equipment.

High school students will interact with only one class of students in the morning, including lunch in that classroom, and move onto another class for the afternoon.

Enhanced public health protocols, including screening, hand washing/sanitizing and contact tracing are planned. Outside activities will be encouraged at both levels and large group gatherings like assemblies will be cancelled.

The board said if a student becomes ill during the day, they will be moved to a designated area and parents/guardians will be called and required to pick them up as soon as possible. Common spaces like cafeterias and libraries will be closed. Final plans will be shared the week of August 10.

A link to the survey will be emailed directly to parents. For more information go to https://newsdesk.st-clair.net/2020/07/30/september-ready-project-update-4/ or www.lkdsb.net.