Membertou First Nation is ready to welcome students back to class this week.

For the first time since mid-March, students will be back in class at Membertou elementary school. But things look a lot different than they did five months ago.

“Our plan is quite simple,” says Darren Googoo, Membertou Education Director. “For our students in pre-primary to grade four, we are going to be having half days. Students are going to be here for two and a half hours at a time. We will have two cohorts come in and have a sanitization between both cohorts in the same day.”

For students in grades five to eight, class sizes will be much smaller. There are fewer desks in each room, and they’re spread out.

Googoo says they decided to cap classes at 14, because he feels the Mi’kmaq population is at a greater risk from COVID-19.

“Our Mi’kmaq population from our youth to adults have the highest rates of diabetes in the country, and highest rates of lung disease. We are among the most vulnerable populations in Canada right now,” says Googoo.

So creating an environment that is safe as possible is top of mind for Googoo.

There are directional arrows on the floor, students have to wear masks, and there are sinks in every classroom to wash your hands before and after each bell.

“We’ve tried to create an environment where there’s an individual student learning space, so we will ask each student to respect each others learning space and to stay six feet from each other when they’re in the classroom.”

Googoo says when the school closed in mid-March, teachers moved their programs online. He feels that if there is a second wave of COVID-19, they are ahead of the game.

“Most of our teachers last year, from the last week of March until the end of school year, they were already putting our students in an online environment,” says Googoo. “So our returning students have an understanding of what might be expected of them.”

Googoo says for the first two weeks of school, the focus will be on learning google classroom and other social media platforms.

Planning ahead of the pandemic that already has this school year looking much different.