Keeping COVID-19 under control at school

Connecting the Dots

Under COVID-19 prevention measures how will schools be centres for learning and creativity this fall? Will young students, long-separated, be excited to see friends. Will they remember to distance? And what if they don’t?

What will play time be like?

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Will an atmosphere of caution, fear in some cases, be the rule to keep students obeying the COVID-19 rules?

Whether or not kids generally fight off the virus quite well is not the issue. The real issue is transmission. Kids, symptomatic or not, can spread the virus just like anyone else. There are many parents, grandparents, extended family members, local merchants, etc. who are at high risk if the virus is carried and spread.

Back in January, Virden’s Minor Hockey Day lost a team or two from the day’s events due to the flu (virus). I believe it was Neepawa where some 60 kids were out of school with the flu that week. Schools and day cares are great places for the spread of a virus.

A recent New York Times article tells the story of a mushrooming COVID-19 outbreak within days of a Jerusalem high school opening to students a few months ago. The disease raged among students, teachers, and families. “The lesson… even communities that have gotten the spread of the virus under control need to take strict precautions.” They advise smaller classes, mask wearing, desks six feet apart and adequate ventilation.

If Manitoba goes ahead with plans for in-school learning, I suggest there needs to be health protection hired on - people with the mandate to monitor children and ensure masks are worn, hands are sanitized and physical distances is maintained. They should also be tasked with communicating with students’ parents when necessary. And I am sure that special cleaning protocol could fall under their job description as well.

This is not the job of teachers. Educational Assistants hired to help special needs students should not be asked to bear the health-check responsibility either.

The Manitoba government will provide up to $100,000 to renew and extend a funding agreement for 2020-21 for the Respect in School (RIS) program. It’s an online curriculum training at no cost to adults who work with students. “With the resumption of in-class learning in Manitoba this fall, students will require emotionally, psychologically and physically supportive school environments to help address anxiety and distress they may have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen.

That is great and will probably be put to good use. However, presumably the school divisions have saved a good chunk of change as buses sat idle since mid-March, janitorial would be less, etc. They will need to spend that saved money to make the new 2020-21 school year work.


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