PEI

Trial, error and trust: How P.E.I. students think back-to-school plans will work

There may be the odd mistake as students and staff adjust to the new back-to-school plan, but life at P.E.I. schools should go relatively smoothly as rules become routine, according to some student council presidents.

'It's going to be a large transition … it's going to be tough for everybody'

Ahead of the school year, CBC News spoke with three outgoing student council presidents at Island high schools to get their take on how they think students will be affected. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

There may be the odd mistake and some tough transitions as students and staff adjust to the back-to-school plan, but life at P.E.I. schools should be fine in time as rules become routine, according to some student council presidents.

That doesn't mean it'll be easy, or that there won't be some difficulties at the beginning or end of the school year.

New guidelines revealed in the Public Schools Branch's plan announced last week show that students won't be able to mix as freely as they'd done in the past — among other highlights, masks will be strongly recommended but not required.

Ahead of the school year, CBC News spoke with three outgoing student council presidents at Island high schools to get their take on how they think students will be affected.

Here is what they had to say.

Mary Frances Williams, Westisle

Westisle's Mary Frances Williams said she expects everything will go according to plan at first, but that as the school year presses on some rules may bend and suddenly it will look like a "regular school year" again.

'Everybody's kind of new to it, right, so it's a lot of trial and error,' says Mary Frances Williams. (Mary Frances Williams/Zoom)

The time between classes will be when it's hardest on students, she said, and sad for younger students who just want to reach out and be with their friends.

"When you're waiting in the lunch line, or you're waiting in any type of lineup to buy your lunch or basically do anything, it's hard to socially distance," she said.

"It's going to be a large transition … it's going to be tough for everybody."

Growing pains around the new public health rules will be part of the process, and Williams said it's paramount that students and teachers help each other through it as best they can. Empathize with teachers, custodians and staff, she added, as they face an "extremely tough job" this coming school year.

As well, teachers and staff should provide students an opportunity to give feedback on whether plans are working for students or not.

"Everybody's kind of new to it, right, so it's a lot of trial and error," she said. "I think if a student has an opinion they'd like to share … there should be an email, or there should be a contact, or there should be a designated teacher at the school."

 Amber Dyer, Three Oaks Senior High

"Just reading the rough outline that has been given, I think it will work pretty well — all things considered," Three Oaks's Amber Dyer said.

If or when something in the guidelines isn't working, Amber Dyer says students should talk to principals and staff. (Amber Dyer/Zoom)

She thinks new rules around shuffling from class to class may be an odd transition for some, especially at schools with a lot of students like TOSH.

One major concern for her is the "grey area" around wearing a mask.

Dyer said she thinks masks should be mandatory, so students can make wearing it a part of their routine and not be bullied or worried about whether they should put one on.

'Too much onus is on the students' to wear or not to wear masks, Amber Dyer says. (Christy Thompson/Shutterstock)

"In high school you have enough to worry about as is with fitting in," she said. "I think if they just said they were mandatory all the pressure would be taken off the kids.

"Too much onus is on the students."

Dyer also said that it'll be interesting to know how students who have to stay home, for whatever reason, are going to continue learning throughout the school year. 

"It will be a big change in terms of how you learn," she said.

"Roll with the punches. It's a learning curve for everybody, so you're all in the same boat. Don't stress about it too much because we're all trying to figure it out."

Adam MacKenzie, Charlottetown Rural

Charlottetown Rural's Adam MacKenzie is confident students at his school will adapt to the new guidelines, and that it'll get easier over time.

Like Dyer and Williams, Adam MacKenzie says it's important for students and teachers to talk with one another if issues with the guidelines come up. (Adam MacKenzie/Zoom)

"Students might have to remind themselves of the rules. I think it'll be a learning experience for everybody so I think it may just not be students that have to do that​​​​​​," he said.

There will be some students, he said, who take the guidelines seriously and others who may not. It'll take encouragement to get everyone on the same page, especially when it comes to wearing masks when its necessary. 

I know for sure that the people that are implementing these guidelines want feedback.— Adam MacKenzie

"I think it could be tough getting into the routine of wearing a mask," he said. "As time moves on, and we learn, I think it'll become much easier to wear a mask until finally it's just a basic part of your day."

Like Dyer and Williams, MacKenzie said it's important for students and teachers to talk with one another if issues with the guidelines come up.

"I think if there are things that aren't working for students and teachers alike they should definitely start a conversation about it," he said.

"I know for sure that the people that are implementing these guidelines want feedback. That was clear at the end of the last school year."

More from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Cody MacKay

Web Writer

Cody hails from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, and is a UPEI History and Carleton Masters of Journalism alum. He joined CBC P.E.I. in July, 2017. Reach him at cody.mackay@cbc.ca

With files from Danny Arsenault

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