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Letter to parents regarding school start-up

COVID-19 INFORMATION FOR PARENTS

June 23, 2021

To: All Parents/Guardians

From: Cheryl Gilmore, Superintendent

Dear Parents/Guardians of Lethbridge School Division

Re: School Start-Up for 2021/2022

As we close this school year, I want to extend my appreciation and admiration for the unwavering commitment that parents have extended to their children in partnering with schools for learning. The growth of students, staff, and parents/guardians in navigating the delivery of learning in flexible ways is unprecedented. I hope the provincial summer plan provides opportunity for our children, youth, and families to begin to re-engage in activities. Although we cannot determine with absolute certainty what the situation will be with COVID-19 at the end of August, we are hopeful that the pattern that is predicted by government and health services is where we find ourselves. I have been meeting with school principals over the last month with the goal of determining what school start-up will look like this fall. The following school start-up parameters are based on a continued positive trend and the provincial summer plan going well.

  1. High Schools and Middle Schools

At the time of this letter, the first dose of vaccination rates for Lethbridge for ages 12+ are over 70%, and the rates for youth ages 12-19 range between 58% and 70% in the three main geographic areas of Lethbridge. See COVID-19 Alberta statistics | alberta.ca. This is in keeping with the provincial plan for removing restrictions, and by the end of the summer the percentages may be higher. Additionally, the South Zone has reduced new cases and hospitalizations.

Class Schedules

Middle and high schools are planning to move away from a fairly rigorous cohort schedule and run a regular class schedule.

Co-curricular and Extra-curricular Activities

School administrators from across the school division worked on a “Phase-in Plan” (see the link at the bottom of this page). This plan was reviewed by the Board at the June 22 Board meeting and approved. As such, the plan comes into effect mid-August when high school sports such as football start. The purpose of the plan is to enable decisions based on the provincial and local COVID-19 conditions in a timely manner. It also creates awareness and understanding among staff, parents, and students what the conditions are within each parameter. The phases align with the provincial stages as outlined in the Alberta Summer Plan so at this time it is looking positive for activities. Having phases also ensures that everyone is aware of the conditions for activities should the situation with COVID-19 take an unfortunate turn.

Start Dates

As is traditional with the middle and high schools, start up will be staggered with some grades starting on August 31 and other grades coming on September 1. Your school will provide you with the details regarding grades.

Hygiene and Safety Precautions

Schools will continue to reinforce hygiene and have sanitization stations. Whether or not students and staff will have to wear masks will depend on provincial recommendations and municipal by-laws.

  1. Elementary Schools

We will approach structures at the elementary level more cautiously at the beginning of the school year because the situation with children under the age of 12 with respect to vaccinations and potential spread of COVID-19 is unknown at this time.

Class Schedules

Elementary classes are in natural cohort groups by class. It is anticipated that students will have physical education, music, and other activities. Large group gatherings, such as assemblies, will be avoided at the beginning of the year. Schools will schedule recesses, lunch, entry and exit from the school in a manner that avoids large numbers of students or adults mingling. This will look different at each school given different sizes and configurations. Your school will provide more details.

Co-curricular and Extra-curricular Activities

Please see the description of the “Phase-in Plan” under high schools and middle schools. It is anticipated that after the first few weeks of school, regular clubs and activities with school cohorts will be able to run at the elementary level.

Start Dates

The practice of staggered entry for elementary students went exceptionally well this year with the benefit of students being in a smaller group their first day back and greater opportunity for developing a relationship with the teacher and other students. This is a practice we will continue given the benefit. Start dates are as follows:

  • Tuesday, August 31 (the first day of school), all elementary students whose last names begin with the letters A-M will come to school for the full school day.
  • Wednesday, September 1, all elementary students whose last names begin with the letters N-Z will come to school for the full school day.
  • On Thursday, September 2, all students will come to school.

Hygiene and Safety Precautions

Schools will continue to reinforce hygiene and have sanitization stations. Whether or not students and staff will have to wear masks will depend on provincial recommendations and municipal by-laws. This year, elementary schools found that keeping schools secure was a safety benefit and will continue the next school year with this practice. Schools will communicate with their parents regarding access, sign-in, and volunteer procedures. Schools are looking forward to re-engaging with parents in the school environment.

If you have any questions regarding specific details for your school, please contact the school administration. If things change in the summer requiring a different school start-up with tighter restrictions, I will be sure to send communication to parents. Enjoy your summer!

Take care,

Cheryl Gilmore, Superintendent of Schools, Lethbridge School Division

Extra-curricular and Co-curricular Phase-in Plan

The goal of the plan is to establish parameters for the commencement of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities in August 2021. 

Guiding documents: 

https://www.asaa.ca/covid-19/general-covid-19-guidelines  

https://www.asaa.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/basic/attachments/guide_asaa_safe_return_to_high_school_athletics_part_2_2020_oct_8_compressed.pdf  

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/playing-sports.html  

https://www.alberta.ca/enhanced-public-health-measures.aspx#open 

Record of Decision- CMOH Order 31-2021, 2021 COVID-19 Response re: Stage 2- Open for Summer Plan 

COVID-19 Information, Stage 2: Guidance for Sport, Fitness and Recreation 

The chart below is fluid because the parameters at each phase reflects what the conditions are in the province relative to COVID-19, provincial guidelines and restrictions, and AHS recommendations. Specific sport and co-curricular activities (e.g. band, choir, drama) can more closely define parameters at each phase particular to the activity using AHS documents specific to the activity as well as ASAA guidelines. 

PHASE-IN PLAN

Registration begins June 7 for Building Brains Together – At Home Division's Director of Finance earns 2021 Pinnacle of Achievement Award