PEI

Individual plans for all 56 English schools on P.E.I. now online

Province releases individual school plans giving Island families the chance to learn more about what the return to school will look like for them

'I don't see a change at this point but, to be realistic, things can change and they have changed rapidly'

The plans outline protocols in the event a student or staff member becomes ill, mask expectations, physical distancing requirements and cohort sizes. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

All 56 individual school plans that fall under the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch are now available online as students prepare to return to the classroom on Sept. 8. 

According to a news release Friday, the plans are based on the guidelines for the return to school and customized to each individual school taking into consideration layout and grade levels.

They outline protocols in the event a student or staff member becomes ill, mask expectations, physical distancing requirements and cohort sizes. 

"Our hope is to have school running and functioning as normal as possible based on some of our restrictions that we have in place," said Norbert Carpenter, the acting director of the Public Schools Branch. 

"The schools are ready." 

Not required to wear masks

The Public Schools Branch is asking the province for funding for new custodians. Additional teachers have also been hired to help with class sizes and student support. 

"That would be directly related to COVID-19," he said. 

"There has been positions added to help with support in terms of, you know, students that need to do a little more work to catch up." 

Norbert Carpenter says he is 'anxious to get the school year rolling and to have students back where they can learn best in our classrooms.' (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

With regard to masks — which are not required to be worn but students must have — Carpenter said he is confident that the schools have enough stocked up in the event a student forgets one. 

"I understand some would like to see it mandatory and that comes with issues as well because it will have to be policed and how do you police something like that," he said.

"However if the ground shifts, you know, before us, we may need to readdress that."

This is just going to be another part of our teaching.— Maria Lavoie, Gulf Shore Consolidated School

It's been nearly six months since P.E.I. schools shut their doors due to the pandemic. In other jurisdictions across the country, officials have discussed possibly delaying previously announced start dates. But on the Island, Carpenter said they are prepared. 

"We're excited to get back and have the children back in classes."

'Another part of our teaching'

At Gulf Shore Consolidated School in North Rustico, principal Maria Lavoie said they looked over their operational plans early this week to ensure nothing was missed. 

"It's like fire drill or a lockdown practice of any of those things that we do," said Lavoie.

"And it makes you feel a little bit better knowing that we're heading in the right direction and that our plans are really solid." 

'It’s not going to be the same as it was before,' says Maria Lavoie. 'We want to make sure everyone is safe.' (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Lavoie said their new back-to-school systems don't come without challenges. One concern is the availability of substitute teachers since anyone feeling ill at all will be immediately sent home. 

"They're working on it to make sure that we do have those teachers available when we need them." 

Another difficult task will be making sure there is no interaction between students from different cohorts. But despite the obstacles, Lavoie said they are ready to help kids learn, even with the new rules in place. 

"Whether it's teaching them how to wash their hands, or whether it's teaching them their sight words or their timetables. This is just going to be another part of our teaching," said Lavoie. 

"It'll start right from the beginning."

'Things can change'

And while the plans are online, they're not set in stone. Lavoie and Carpenter both agree that adjustments could potentially be made when the school year begins to keep everyone as safe as possible. 

"I don't see a change at this point but, to be realistic, things can change and they have changed rapidly," said Carpenter. 

"So I think we have to be ready for that."

According to the news release, schools under the French Language School Board will have plans released Monday.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Kerry Campbell

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