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Airdrie Catholic schools outline reopening plan

As families prepare to return to school in the fall, students at Airdrie’s Catholic schools will have to adhere to strict safety measures once they get back to the classroom.
Catholic schools in Airdrie like Our Lady Queen of Peace School will have staggered student entry during the first week of classes. Photo by Kate F. Mackenzie/Airdrie City View

As families prepare to return to school in the fall, students at Airdrie’s Catholic schools will have to adhere to strict safety measures once they get back to the classroom.


The Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) – which oversees St. Martin de Porres High School, Our Lady Queen of Peace School, Good Shepherd School and St. Veronica School ­– has asked all its schools to make a staggered entry schedule during the first week of classes, meaning not all students will be starting at the same time.


According to Chief Superintendent Bryan Szumlas, the staggered schedules will give students time to adjust to the new rules, practices and procedures of the school environment.


“This way, we’ll be able to ease students into the new normal,” he said.


On Aug. 14, the division released its School Resumption Handbook – a guide for a safe school reopening. According to Szumlas, the guidebook focuses on five points for a safe return.


“The very first point has to do with mandatory health checks,” he said.


Every morning before school, students and staff members will need to ensure they’re not exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms, Szumlas said.


“If they’re not, they’re free to come to school,” he added.


The second point centres on hand washing. Szumlas said teachers will incorporate more hand washing routines into their classrooms.


Sanitizing contact surfaces like desks is another focus.


“Perhaps the teacher would squirt the solution on the desk, and then the child would wipe it down and dry it,” he said.


Additionally, students from kindergarten to grade 12 and all staff will be required to wear a mask when they are unable to maintain two metres of physical distance, Szumlas said.


“There will be times during the day when they can take the mask off,” he said. “For example, if they’re eating or drinking.”


Practicing physical distancing is the final focus for a safe return to schools, he said. The recommended two-metre distance will be in place, but when students need to be in closer proximity, they will be required to wear a mask, he said.


The handbook can be found on the homepage of


“I believe the way we can reduce risk is by having a combination of these five things working together,” Szumlas said. “I also want to highlight [Alberta’s chief medical officer of health] Dr. [Deena] Hinshaw has spoken publicly to Albertans saying there is no risk-free approach for living in a world with COVID-19.”


Instead of returning to the classroom, thousands of CCSD students have opted to do online schooling.


On August 6, CCSD opened registration for its first online school, Szumlas said.


“We are sitting at 3,500 students registered, which doesn’t surprise me at all,” Szumlas said. “That’s a nice, healthy number.”


He expects approximately 10 per cent of CCSD students to enroll in online classes, which is around 6,000 students in total.


The deadline to register is Aug. 21, but he said there might be a second opportunity for students to register.


Once students choose their method of learning, they are expected to stick to it for the entire school year. Szumlas said this is because teachers have the flexibility to determine when they want to teach certain parts of the curriculum.


“The problem is a child could have had one unit in the fall with their online programming, and then they go back to face-to-face, and they could end up having the exact same unit again,” he said.


Szumlas encouraged any Airdrie parents who have further questions about returning to classes to contact their school principal.

Kate F. Mackenzie,
Follow me on Twitter @katefmack

Kate F. Mackenzie

About the Author: Kate F. Mackenzie

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