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Calgary Catholic School district’s parents raise issues as schools prep for re-entry

Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) parents have concerns about K-3 student safety in the CCSD’s school re-entry plan.

On June 10, the Government of Alberta announced its school re-entry plan, in hopes to see students return to in-person classes in the coming year.

Within the government’s plan, schools will reopen with an emphasis on cleaning and sanitizing high traffic areas, with social distancing and PPE measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a survey conducted by the CCSD, parents of students in kindergarten to grade three were twice as “uncomfortable” with the CCSD’s re-entry plan than parents of students in Grade 10 to 12.

Parents also identified that sanitation and cleaning procedures were more important then masks and social distancing procedures in schools.

The CCSD response

The Chief Superintendent of the CCSD, Dr. Bryan Szumlas said that the entire district is planning for a blended approach to school re-entry (Scenario 2) rather than a full return to normal (Scenario 1). A final decision on the scenario will be made by the province August 1.

Szumlas said the CCSD has hired a kindergarten consultant team to work with AHS guidelines for the classroom. They wanted to specifically address concerns for that group of students.

Szumlas points to parents being more concerned about younger children than older students simply because of the new regulations.

“Parents are still understanding the rules of school,” he said.

“Now to add a further layer of the rules that have to do with social distancing and dealing with COVID-19.”

When it comes to health restrictions, Szumlas said social distancing will still be required in the classroom. Face masks are “optional” for staff and students.

“We feel for parents, it’s a personal choice if they decide to have their kids wear a mask,” he said.

“At this point in time, we’re saying masks are recommended or optional.”

Szumlas said he hopes for the district to reopen as normal but has to anticipate a blended online and in-class approach in the new school year.

“We’re hoping for the best – who wouldn’t? I think everyone in the world wants to go back to normal,” he said.

“But we have to do it in a safe way, I think we have to do it in a slow way.”