Spaced out desks, taped off sinks, hand sanitizer throughout — these are a few of the measures schools have taken to protect students returning to school under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Edmonton Catholic Schools and Edmonton Public Schools each gave media a tour of a school building on Friday ahead of the first day of class, which arrives next week for most of the province.
Robert Martin, chief superintendent of Edmonton Catholic Schools, said the division has developed a main strategy with each school adapting it to suit their own site.
"It's been a tremendous amount of work," Martin said. "We have worked all summer long at developing these protocols."
Some protocols are standard.
For example, students can't drink from the water fountains, but they can fill their bottles.
"We are limiting movement within our schools as much as possible and [is] reasonable. So we create cohorts of students and those students will move together," Martin explained.
About 1,000 elementary students at the St. John XXIII Elementary and Junior High School return to class next Wednesday in Windermere.
Michael Kovacs, principal of the school, said there are sinks in almost every classroom and students must wash their hands before eating.
There's also a hand sanitizing station at the door of every classroom. Common areas will be closed. Kovacs said some of the changes can be a logistical challenge.
"Carpets are all gone — I got 40 carpets in storage in one room and that's a challenge because where you putting all this stuff when your school is full to begin with?" Kovacs said.
Maude Carrier, a Grade 1 French immersion teacher, said it was a lot of work to set up the precautions and she expects they'll adjust as they go.
"I'm a bit nervous for the kids, I think it will be very different from last year and they will see the difference," Carrier said. "I hope they're not scared, I hope they're excited and they get used to this."
With 25 kids in the classroom, she's approaching the re-entry with cautious optimism.
"I think it's a lot of kids for one classroom but I think we've been able to separate the tables, and have protocols if we can follow them, if the kids can follow them, it will work very well."
Signs, maps and masks
Bryan Radmanovich, principal of Lillian Osborne High School, says each Edmonton public school must follow the same rules.
Physical distancing, cohort groups, enhanced cleaning, and sanitization stations are now standard features across the school division.
"The plans that we have in place will reduce anxiety and we'll be able to put them at ease so that we can return in a safe manner as well," he said.
Besides the handwashing and sanitizing, Radmanovich said anyone entering the building must do a self-assessment every morning
Masks are mandatory in every building.
Parents aren't allowed to drop in, they must make appointments to meet with teachers or the principal.
Students go through different entrances depending on where their classrooms are located.
Maps are posted at every entrance showing students how to get to those classrooms.
"We've also put some directional signage in here as well on the floor so that when students come in they know where they need to go in terms of getting to the classroom."
The school divisions sent surveys out to parents, asking if they wanted their children to go back to classes in person or learn online.
Edmonton public schools, nearly 30 per cent or 27,000 students are opting to learn virtually this fall.
Edmonton Catholic Schools, between 22 and 25 per cent — about 11,000 students are opting for online classes, but the division said it will finalize those numbers on Monday.