Maritime schools plan for unusual academic year amid COVID-19
HALIFAX -- If there's one thing the school experience will be for Maritime students in 2020, it's new.
On Wednesday, Prince Edward Island became the last Maritime province to make the return to classrooms official. On September 8, students will return to their studies. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-2021 school year will be unlike any other.
P.E.I.'s Education Minister Brad Trivers notes the academic year will feature fewer crowds and more caution.
"We are committed to having all individualized school plans available for students and parents by the end of next week," said Trivers, during a press conference on Wednesday.
There are similarities concerning back-to-school plans for Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In all three provinces, schools plan to have more staff, smaller classes, staggered recess, lunch, arrival and departure times.
However, there are differences.
Prince Edward Island highly recommends all students wear masks on school buses – including drivers. All school staff will wear masks inside schools when physical distancing isn't possible. Students in grades 7-12 will be strongly encouraged to wear masks in hallways, washrooms and classrooms. Meanwhile, students in grades K-6 can wear masks inside, if they wish.
In Nova Scotia, masks are mandatory on buses, and high school students are being asked to wear masks in common areas.
In New Brunswick, a decision on wearing masks has yet to be made; however, officials are hopeful.
"We have an expectation that a lot of people are going to want to wear masks regardless – and that's great, there's nothing wrong with that," said N.B. Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Dominic Cardy. "Masks are harmless and can help to prevent the disease from spreading, so I certainly encourage that."
New Brunswick has decided it will use a blended learning model for high school students – with students alternating between one day in the classroom and one day at home. In Nova Scotia, blended learning will serve as a backup plan if schools are forced to close again. However, in P.E.I., students are expected to be in class five days a week.
Meanwhile, health officials expect parents to screen their children before sending them to school. However, many parents say they face a dilemma in determining the difference between the common cold and COVID-19.