With one week until students head back to school, teachers are already in the building, preparing for their first classroom experience during a global pandemic.
“My head is kind of spinning,” admitted Brett Matlock, a grade 8 teacher at Regina’s St. Gregory School. He has been an elementary teacher for nearly ten years but this year is different.
“Anyone has been a first year teacher, or first year at any job for that matter, you're getting your feet wet, there's a lot of stresses and anxieties that go along with that,” he said.
In addition to regular preparation this week, the Regina Catholic School Division arranged staff training on things like hand hygiene and virus transmission.
Teachers have had to remove any extra furniture to ensure maximum physical spacing between desks.
“All of our desks are in straight rows distance them as much as possible,” explained Matlock, who used to put desks in clusters of four, to encourage group work. “I've got 28 kids in a quite small space so it's not possible to maintain that six feet but we do the best we can."
Brett Matlock, a grade 8 teacher at Regina’s St. Gregory School, is preparing his classroom to fit within COVID-19 guidelines ahead of the return of students. (Morgan Campbell/CTV News)
Hallways, at the Uplands area elementary school, have arrows for two-way traffic, and reminders are posted on the walls about masks and physical distancing. There are also two designated ‘illness and care rooms’ where anyone exhibiting symptoms at school, can wait to be taken home.
“Every chance that we can find, throughout a school day, to reduce the risk of transmission, we have taken all those chances and made things as safe as we can,” Twylla West, a representative for the Regina Catholic School Division (RCSD), said.
West says the RCSD is optimistic about the return to classes.
“March was hard for all of us and September is going to be hard, but I feel confident in what our teachers are doing and the creativity that they're showing in their adaptability,” she said. “I think that lesson is also going to show through for the students.”
Staff, like Matlock, agree the 2019-20 school year helped with adaptability.
“I think it was difficult but at the same time I learned a great deal as a teacher,” Matlock said. “There is a silver lining in everything really.”
Each school has its own strategy but St. Gregory will be using staggered start and finish times, as well as staggered recess and lunch periods.
They are also hosting a staggered open house, with time slots Wednesday and Thursday nights so students and parents have a better idea what to expect when school resumes on September 8.