Back to school: Calgary parents with mixed feelings as kids head to class

September 1 marks the first day of school since the government shut all schools due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Parents drop their kids off for the first day of school in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. (Omar Sherif/for Livewire Calgary)

Calgary parents share a feeling of cautious optimism as they took their kids back to school Tuesday during an uncertain time.

Megan Dawe, a parent of two Hawkwood Elementary School children emphasized the need for kids to go back to having friends and leaving the house. But, she admitted that this new COVID-19 normal is strange.

“I think they need to be back at school,” she said.

“But it kind of makes you feel weird, it’s something we’ve never dealt with before.”

Children in masks were visibly excited to be back at school. Some of them were running around, while others were posing for pictures and taking selfies with parents and friends who they hadn’t seen in a while.

But their in-school experience will be vastly different than what they’re used to. Alberta schools are entering students through a staggered entry process and are splitting them up through cohorts within their grades.

Different grades are expected to enter schools through different doors, in an effort to manage the flow of the students.

A sign-in desk at Hawkwood Elementary School for a before-school program for elementary school kids in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

There are daily health protocols, hand washing, distancing (though not mandated), masks and hand sanitizer stations.

Measures are hard to maintain

While these measures are in place, some believe that it will still be difficult for teachers to manage students.

After all, kids will be kids.

“Social distancing is impossible in reality,” said Keiko Sato, who works with a before and after school program for kids.

Even though the students will be split into cohorts, she explained that once school is out, all the kids will have to mix and mingle in the gym. It virtually eliminates the staggered entry process and the cohort system.

There are scheduling and space conflicts, too, Sato said.

While the weather is still nice, Sato said that they can keep the kids outside, but she’s concerned with the space when it comes to winter.

“How long can we stay outside for?” Sato said.

“Winter is coming.”

Students and parents practice social distancing outside of Hawkwood Elementary School in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

An early cause for concern?

Prior to schools reopening on Tuesday (Sept. 1), Meadow Ridge Elementary school in Okotoks was closed as a precautionary measure due to a member of staff being diagnosed with COVID-19.

In a notice that was sent to the Meadow Ridge school community, the school stated that Alberta Health Services told them that the school was safe to remain open, but the school decided against it.

“While Alberta Health Services has indicated the school is safe to remain open, due to the late hour and to allow Public Health time to complete their contact tracing, we are delaying the start of school for some Meadow Ridge families,” read the notice.

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