Six Nations elementary school students heading back to school on Valentine’s Day

By Turtle Island News staff

SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND- Six Nations elementary school students are headed back to the classroom for in-person learning Monday, Feb., 14th with increased COVID-19 precautions including daily screening for each child.

After more than a month of virtual learning Travis Anderson, director of federal schools announced the return of in-person learning on February 14 at the Six Nations Elected Council General Council Committee meeting Monday (Feb. 8).

Anderson said parents have received notification on the return that includes the different layers of COVID-19 protection.  “There is no one thing that protects you from COVID, its layers of protection,” he said. He said outdoor learning will be promoted as well.

He said there may be staffing issues and keeping certified teachers in the classroom and he is hoping it won’t become a problem. He said if a staff member is not available the class will move to online learning.

He said if a student shows up with COVID system the student and any siblings or family in the school will also be sent home. He said it is important students not be sent to school ill. He also said bussing could be an issue but parents will be notified.

Anderson said a school nurse will at each school and mask breaks will be throughout the day.

Parents received communication on previously that said students would return on Valentine’s Day and those who wish to remain virtual have to apply for the virtual academy by Feb. 4 and daily attendance will be taken. There are 44 students out of 1050 that have registered for the virtual academy, he said.

Upon their return the school plans to enhance safety without a cohort system include asking staff and students to stay home and isolate if they are ill, school screening and daily monitoring, a nurse in each school, hand sanitizing, wearing medical masks with KN95 masks available for staff and students, mandatory vaccination for faculty and staff, divers at desks, rapid antigen tests for ill students, PCR COVID-19 tests available to staff and students, mechanical ventilation systems and air quality testing, as well as quarantine and isolation protocols.

Vaccination is not mandatory for students, but it is encouraged as “the best way to protect from severe illness caused by COVID-19.”

The document says in preparation for the return to school parents should make sure they are connected to the school’s Facebook and Edmodo sites and check them every morning for updates about cancellations. If the bus is cancelled parents are responsible for getting their child to class. Parents will know by 7 a.m. if there are cancellations or not.

Parents are also advised update their contact information with the school.

Parents must also fill out an Ontario COVID-19 assessment for each child every morning before school. Visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/.

Isolation protocols have changed for children who exhibit symptoms, if one child has symptoms, all of the children in the household must stay home. If one child becomes ill at school staff may give a rapid test, but all siblings will be sent home. Isolating students may use their Edmodo to continue their education while symptomatic.

Plexiglas dividers will remain in place and the schools will continue to focus on outdoor learning.

Six Nations federally operated elementary schools have spent the majority of the pandemic closed to in-person learning to protect children from COVID-19 infections as Indigenous people were deemed a vulnerable population early on in the pandemic.

Schools closed in March 2020 when the pandemic first hit surrounding areas and schools off-reserve closed as well.

In October 2020 SNEC voted to keep the schools closed until January 2021 due to cases on the reserve spiking to as high as 11 positive cases a day and councillors voted to keep the schools closed. The closure was pushed until February 1 and again until March 1. Finally it was once again pushed until September 7.

The Schools finally opened in September with a Cohort A, B and C. C was fully online and A attended school Monday, Tuesday and every other Wednesday; while Cohort B attended Thursday, Friday and every other Wednesday. The reopening plan included extra custodians, enhanced high-touch surface cleaning and sanitization, hiring nurses, installing Plexiglas barriers in classrooms, reducing class sizes to not more than 15, and signage throughout the schools.

In December 2021 SNEC voted to do away with the cohort system and bring all students back together on Dec. 6.

There were two instances where COVID-19 cases were found in Oliver M. Smith Kawenniio school was found in the “school community,” but out breaks were not declared.

Schools were closed again after Christmas break in 2021 because of rising cases on and off-reserve, although off-reserve schools remained open.

The Grand Erie District School Board announced eased COVID-19 restrictions and a return of low contact sports and student activities Feb. 7

Low-contact sports can resume practiced on Feb. 7 including volleyball, badminton, curling, hockey and more. League games schedule can resume Feb. 14.

Elementary student athletic will see basketball replaced by badminton, and more

Clubs and student groups including yearbook club, photography club, student councils and more can resume. Class choirs or bands can also resume, with masks and physical distancing.

 

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