This new school year shapes up to be like none we have ever experienced before. Many students have not seen their friends and certainly their teachers since March, when in-school learning was shut down due to the initial spread of COVID-19. We know there is a level of excitement and nervousness as this school year begins. And, of course, there are many changes in Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS), as our staff at the district and school level have worked over the summer months to prepare for the return to in-class learning.
The most important first step to the new school year for students, staff and families is a daily self-health check each morning. If students or staff have any symptoms of COVID-19 or feel ill they need to stay home from school. That is just one of the changes that has been put in place to help keep everyone safe and healthy and minimize the spread of COVID-19.
In mid-August, we shared the Wolf Creek District Re-Entry Plan, outlining the guidelines for our schools that would help keep schools safe and healthy, while preserving an in-school learning environment that students are familiar with. The District plan is overarching in scope, and outlines enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of schools, increased janitorial hours throughout the school day, continued hand sanitizing and washing, the provincial requirement for masks in students in grades 4-12 (when physical distancing isn’t possible) and optional masking for students in Pre-K to Grade 3.
Because we know there are still families who may not be ready to return to in-person classes, the WCPS plan provided information on learning options. Those options are in-class learning, a locally administered, parent-led Virtual Learning Program, staffed by Wolf Creek teachers, and information around homeschool options outside the jurisdiction. Additionally, schools began finalizing their plans to communicate to families, outlining school specific measures such as locker use, drop and pick up locations, staggered arrival and dismissal, class cohorting, and lunch and recess breaks to name a few.
To best answer questions related to school re-entry, we hosted a very successful and widely viewed Virtual Town Hall, where we collected more than 200 email questions and via our WCPS YouTube channel answered as many questions as we could. We want to thank everyone who sent in questions and watched the Virtual Town Hall, and encourage those who weren’t able to tune in live to watch the video on our website at wolfcreek.ab.ca. Of course, if you continue to have questions, please reach out to your local school and to the District, and continue to visit the many school re-entry and COVID-19 resources on the District website and linked on your Wolf Creek school site. Your questions not only help your family, but they help us better communicate with all Wolf Creek families.
To get a better sense of where families were on their decision to return to in-class learning, we sent a survey out in August. We received 3,694 responses, and of those nearly 80 per cent indicated they are planning on returning their children to the school classroom. Please accept our sincere gratitude for all those who participated in the survey; the results are encouraging and help us be better prepared for the school year.
It is a unique time for us all. There are many changes in stores, public places and as mentioned in schools. But we trust in the professionalism and passion of our staff, the resiliency and enthusiasm of our students and the patience and understanding of our school families and communities. This is a time that is made better through continued cooperation.
We are ready for the school year to begin; welcome back!
Pamela Hansen is Board Chair of Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS). WCPS Board of Trustees consists of six trustees representing the communities and rural areas of Alix, Bentley, Blackfalds, Bluffton, Clive, Eckville, Lacombe, Ponoka, and Rimbey. Serving approximately 7,300 students, from Kindergarten to Grade 12, WCPS employs approximately 412 teachers and 350 support staff in 30 schools, including five colony schools, throughout the Division.