STS Back to School Plan for 2021-2022

Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS) Back-to-School Plan for the 2021-2022 School Year

Last updated: August 19, 2021

Please note that the Back-to-School Plan and guidance will be updated as needed and any changes will be communicated to all members of our community. 


 

Dear STS Community,

As we return to school, I understand that many of us are more than ready to see COVID-19 behind us and return to pre-pandemic routines, while we are faced with the reality that there remains a need for continued attention to safety and doing things a bit differently for the greater good. With this top-of-mind, and given the diversity of viewpoints and personal circumstances in the STS community, our back-to-school plan has been designed with a core focus on who we are as a school and community. We take the responsibility for the safety of our students and employees seriously and are learning from educational institutions around Canada as we plan for a full return to school, including offering all co-curricular and sporting activities.

I believe that together, with a focus on the well-being of everyone and upholding the values of our school, we will continue to manage this situation in the STS way, striving for our best, being innovative, and maintaining community. I also understand that our views on the current situation are as diverse as our community. Respecting that diversity will be key to a successful return.

As you will see, our plan is built to:

  • optimize our unique outdoor campus to create additional space for teaching, learning, and play;
  • create an environment where students can be successful, healthy, and happy;
  • maximize a healthy environment in our physical space with special attention to air ventilation, disinfection, removing potential risks, and managing human traffic;
  • take care of our STS family, and empower each community member to play a critical role in keeping our community safe;
  • focus on physical, social, and mental health and wellness, and personalized solutions; and
  • go above and beyond, addressing issues with a ‘yes’ mindset, and exceeding guidelines wherever possible.

As the foundation of our plan, all students and employees will begin the 2021-2022 school year by continuing to:

  • complete the daily checklist and staying home when unwell;
  • practice hand hygiene; and
  • wear masks when not physically distanced.

Vaccinations:

As noted by Dr. Hinshaw and AHS recommendations, we continue to encourage all students and families who are eligible, to be vaccinated as a way to support the safety of our community. Albertans can book appointments through AHS online, by calling 811 or through participating pharmacies. Vaccination status is privileged medical information and school employees are not permitted to ask questions about the vaccine status of any individual student or family member.

Other measures:

Given that Kindergarten to Grade 7 students (under the age of 12) do not have access to vaccination, in addition to the daily checklist, hand hygiene, and masking, the following measures will be in place to continue to protect students in these vulnerable groups:

  1. Elementary School areas will continue to be out of bounds for students and staff who are not in the elementary school.
    1. Middle and Senior School students and staff should avoid using the Black Watch Bistro during Elementary lunch;
    2. Middle and Senior School students and staff using the art and design areas of the Rose Elementary wing must continue to use the bathrooms by the bistro and not use the Elementary wing bathrooms.
  2. Elementary School Encore activities will continue to run in grade-level cohorts.
  3. Parents must give informed consent for optional co-curricular activities where students are from multiple cohorts.
  4. In mixed cohort situations, supervisors will use physical distancing strategies wherever possible in addition to other mitigation methods (e.g., hand-hygiene).

The table below is meant to help clarify updates for this year:

What stays the same?

What’s different

Daily Health Checklist: All staff and students should continue to screen daily for symptoms using the latest Alberta Health Daily Checklist

Isolation: Please note that those who test positive or show core COVID symptoms, as identified by AHS, must isolate, but close contacts are no longer required to quarantine.

Entry/Exit procedures:

  • Elementary School students will use their grade specific entrances in the Rose elementary wing.
  • Middle School students will use the Anderson doors to enter and exit the building.
  • Senior School Students will use the Cross doors to enter and exit the building

Cohorting: Students will be cohorted by grade groups and not by sections. In middle and senior schools, this will allow students to move across classrooms and interact with grade-level peers.

Masking: Masking continues to be mandatory on buses and rideshare vehicles. All students, staff and visitors entering the school must remain masked in common areas. All students and staff are required to bring a personal mask and have it accessible at all times.

To start the school year, students in K-12 will be required to wear a mask in classrooms when not physically distanced. Teachers will provide opportunities for physically distanced learning activities when masks can be safely removed.

Lunches: Separate Elementary, Middle and Senior School lunches will be maintained at the start of the school year to support cohorting. Kindergarten - Grade 2 students will eat in the cafeteria and Grades 3-6 will eat in their studios. Students in Kindergarten - Grade 4 who would like a cafeteria meal will need to fill in the Black Watch Bistro Primary Years menu selection.

Classrooms: Middle and Senior School students can move between classrooms and will not be restricted to homerooms. Elementary areas remain off-limits to middle and senior school students.

Informed consent for co-curriculars and OE: Through permission click, parents must give informed consent for optional co-curricular and OE activities where students are from multiple cohorts, giving families the opportunity to opt-in to what they are comfortable with.

All Co-curriculars and OE trips will be offered again: Students will have many more opportunities to engage and pursue their passions this year, with physical distancing strategies used wherever possible in addition to other mitigation methods (e.g., hand-hygiene). 

Hand Hygiene: Students and staff are expected to continue hand hygiene when moving through doorways (e.g., entering and leaving rooms) using hand sanitizers and frequent hand washing with soap is encouraged.

Surface Sanitization: Surface cleaning agents will continue to be available in classrooms for those who want to use them, but cleaning after every use will not be required.

Lockers & Boot Rooms: Boot rooms and lockers will be assigned by cohorts (grade level groups) in specific areas of the school. Students must use the lockers in the areas assigned to them.

Plexiglass: Trifold use is no longer required. However, trifolds are available to students or staff who wish to use them as an additional source of protection. They can be obtained from the Principal.

In-school campus visitors: To allow us to focus on a successful school start-up, we respectfully ask that external visitors do not come into the building until the end of September 2021. We will evaluate this protocol and update as soon as we can, as we miss our parent visitors and volunteers and can't wait to see them back on campus on a regular basis.

External campus visitors: We are pleased to be able to host some community-building outdoor events that were put on hold last year, such as the Welcome Coffee and Family Fall Fair. Please look for more details about those outdoor events in your back-to-school handbook.

Uniforms: To allow for students to wear freshly laundered clothing each day, the more flexible uniform requirements from last year will remain in place for the time-being. Full uniform requirements are outlined in the back-to-school handbook (pages 30-31).

Microwaves: Students will be able to use campus microwaves to heat food from home again this year, but will be required to wear masks when in line waiting and while using the microwaves.

 

The reasons for these decisions are as follows:

  • We are a K-12 school community with approximately 40% of our students unable to access vaccination at this time.
  • Our students come from all over the city and region and are highly engaged in community groups and activities.
  • Many of our families have students across school divisions (Elementary, Middle, and Senior School), therefore it is not possible to effectively cohort students within grades or divisions.
  • Research and guidance from physician groups, SickKids, and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommend a cautious approach to the school year.
  • The following provincial documents also guide our decisions as we respond to the evolving needs of staff and students during this pandemic:

These precautionary measures will be in place for the first six weeks of the school year out of an abundance of caution. As we move forward, we will continue to conduct risk assessments and evaluate where health and safety measures can be adapted, removed, and/or further applied. We will re-evaluate these measures based on provincial data and context.

All updates and resources will continue to be available on the COVID-19 UPDATES webpage.

We believe that these measures will protect the psychological, emotional, and physical safety of our community by enabling an immediate return to STS’s rich in-person learning opportunities both within and outside the classroom, including mixed cohort co-curricular activities.

To close, I want to share a few important points:

  1. We have done this before and given the high level of commitment to safety from our families, we were grateful to have few COVID-19 cases last year.
  2. We continue to lean on experts, use common sense, err on the side of caution, and make decisions that are best for our collective community.
  3. We are very fortunate to have vaccines now, so this school year is already starting off on a much more positive note. With that said, we have a large population in the building that can’t get vaccinated. This includes everyone born 2010 and later, and the best way to protect them is to continue with masking and other safety measures.
  4. Our precautions last year reduced not just the transmission of COVID but also other respiratory infections like colds and flu. Masking this year will continue to minimize respiratory infections and transmission in schools.
  5. As we all return to school from different locations in and outside Canada, and with so many of our students taking buses from homes in various Calgary area communities, masking for all students and staff allows us to have a successful return to school.
  6. The decisions we make can only be as good as the information we have. While respecting privacy, we always appreciate it when families provide information related to possible exposure to COVID-19 that may help us prevent spread on our campus. This transparency, trust, and ongoing two-way communication helped us to be successful last year. 
  7. We will continue to re-evaluate the situation as it evolves.

I want to reiterate that our school community’s commitment to safety meant that we had limited time away from school last year. Given the multitude of positive impacts from being at school in-person, we are committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students and employees through the measures outlined above. By doing so, we can continue to ‘say yes’ to extraordinary learning opportunities for our students.

I look forward to working with you, confident that we can and will do this well. Thank you for your continued support and patience. Should you have any questions or concerns, please connect with your Division Principal or me.

Respectfully,

Mrs. Carol Grant-Watt
Head of School