Elementary student numbers expected to be down; staff preparing for new safety protocols

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder News

Wednesday, September 9 2020

Gabriola Elementary School administration expects fewer students in classrooms this year. GES principal Kate Russell said she won’t know final numbers until Nov. 6, the deadline for families who were undecided at the outset of the school year to choose whether they will go with full-time, in-class learning, or remote/distributed learning.

Russell said, “we definitely will be down. We have some families that feel very strongly about home schooling [or remote learning].” 

The number of students that will be in each class could be a maximum of 29 in a straight intermediate grade level.

Russell expects learning groups – the school contacts anyone will interact with throughout the school year as mandated by the Ministry of Education – to max out at 50, which would include instructors and EAs. 

Learning groups would only be utilized for outdoor activities at GES. 

As per the Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’s Restart Plan - approved by the ministry - GES will implement measures including entering and exiting from exterior classroom doors, staff must wear masks in common areas such as hallways, and enclosed areas such as washrooms and the photocopier room will be limited to one person at a time. 

Parents and parent volunteers will not be allowed in the building. 

Further details are outlined in the GES-specific page on the NLPS website.  

A new HVAC system was installed over the summer to improve ventilation. 

While all classrooms have sinks for hand washing, none have hot water. Russell said district facilities staff are looking into obtaining provincial funds to install it. 

Physical contact will be discouraged but physical distancing will not be required by students. Russell said desks have been reconfigured to avoid groupings and will be forward facing. She said staff understand the changes will be an adjustment for students, especially for those that did not return in June. 

“Our school had a focus on social emotional learning last year for our professional learning, and so that’s something we have been focusing on a lot in this school.

“As far as trauma-informed practice, compassionate classrooms, compassionate communication … for us that’s just something we feel very passionate about so we’ll continue to focus on that. We really want to ensure [students] feel this is a safe place to be because without that no learning will happen.”