Medicine Hat school division superintendents shared their thoughts after the announcement that students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will return to in-classroom learning this coming Monday.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Wednesday that students will return to in-school learning after an extended break.
“Children who learn in person belong in the classroom and they will be there with the added safety of rapid tests and medical-grade masks,” said LaGrange.
Hinshaw strongly encouraged all students to mask while in school and follow protocol.
Reagan Weeks, superintendent for the Prairie Rose School Division, told the News she is excited to have the kids back in schools.
“As school divisions are preparing for a return to in-person learning, school boards and Ministry’s provision of both masks and rapid tests are an additional safety measure we are grateful for,” said Weeks. “We are also aware that in-person learning is important for the mental health and well-being of students.”
Weeks said the division has masks already on hand for the return to school and will continue with previous safety measures.
“We are extremely grateful to our staff and families for continuing to work collaboratively and diligently to ensure that we can simultaneously have high quality learning environments that are safe and provide engaging learning opportunities for our kids,” said Weeks.
Mark Davidson, superintendent for the Medicine Hat Public School Division, said they are also looking forward to having students back. He emphasized that cleaning measures are being maintained and that staff will reinforce the strategies around masking, distancing and regular hand and respiratory hygiene. He hopes families and staff will continue to pay close attention to the COVID checklist.
“I think if we have any concerns it’s about the part that we can’t control,” said Davidson. “If people have symptoms and they’re unable to come to work, we’re concerned that we might get to a place where we exhaust our substitute pool and aren’t able to staff to have all our classes be face to face.”
Davidson wants families of MHPSD to know they are striving to continue face-to-face learning.
“Our commitment to the mitigation measures we’re taking in schools is all about making sure that our staff and our kids are safe and they can be in school every day. If we end up in a place where we have a class or a grade that has to be transitioned to at-home learning, it will be because we have exhausted all other options.”
Dwayne Zarichny, superintendent of the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education, agreed with the sentiments of Davidson and Weeks.
“We’re very excited to have our students return on Monday. We had hoped, when they delayed the start of our school year after Christmas, that we would be returning soon. We certainly believe and know that in-person learning is the best option for our students.”
Zarichny said his jurisdiction follows the high standards of ASHRAE for air filtration in their schools.
“They are experts in this area. They have provided guidelines to reduce airborne aerosol exposure from infectious diseases,” said Zarichny. “We’re exceeding those guidelines. I think there’s been a lot of concern in the public lately that there might be air quality issues in schools, but in our circumstance, we’ve used those guidelines as a standard throughout the pandemic.
“We’ve been working hard to have our schools clean and ready … I think we’re doing as much as we can to keep our students and staff as safe as possible as this is our highest priority.”