Updated - Grasslands Back to School Plan - 2021-22
Updated Sept. 24, 2021 - Bold and Italicized indicate a new change
This plan is founded on the following four guiding principles that were established by the government in collaboration with education partners.
• The safety of children, students and staff comes first.
• Children and student learning will continue.
• Provincial funding is still flowing to schools.
• School authorities have flexibility to do what is best for their community.
This plan balances the need for provincial direction and standardized approaches in some areas while also providing flexibility and respecting school authority autonomy at the local level.
The Government of Alberta’s 2021-2022 School Year Plan is based upon the recovery phase reflecting a corresponding shift from mandatory health measures to recommended health best practices. Their plan is focused on a normal return to school, with in-class learning for the majority of students.
Although some health and safety protocols are no longer required by the Government of Alberta, Grasslands School Division will continue to implement some additional measures and protocols. The health and safety of students and staff remains our top priority. This plan outlines key elements for the resumption of learning. Portions of this plan may need to be modified in accordance with provincial directives and timelines, and/or by Board directive.
Health and Safety Management
Joint Worksite Health and Safety
The Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committee is a group of worker and employer representatives, working together with shared responsibility to identify and solve safety concerns at the work site. Committee members work together to actively improve conditions in the workplace and promote safe work practices. Health and Safety Committees form an important part of the internal responsibility system and help ensure that work site parties are aware of their roles and responsibilities in the workplace.
The Committee also provides support for the three basic rights that all workers have in protecting their health and safety: the Right to Know about hazards in the workplace, the Right to Participate in the health and safety of the workplace, and the Right to Refuse dangerous or unsafe work.
All Grasslands employees are jointly responsible for their own safety and are required to:
Follow applicable legislation;
Participate in any and all COVID-19 and/or related training;
As of September 16th, it is required that all grades 4-12 students and all staff in all school settings wear non-medical masks in shared areas (hallways, cafeteria, gathering spaces, etc.) of school outside the classroom.
Non-medical masks are not required while students are seated in the classroom during instruction if following the physical distancing guidance. If close contact between students, or students and teachers/staff is occurring as a result of classroom activities, non-medical masks should be used for the duration of this activity.
A teacher/staff may remove a mask when alone at a workstation and separated by at least two metres from all other persons or separated from every other person by a physical barrier.
All staff and students from Pre-kindergarten to grade 12 must wear a mask while riding on a school bus.
Face shields may be worn in addition to a mask, at the discretion of the individual. Staff may elect to wear a face shield or eye protection in addition to a mask when completing personal care of students or when staff are in close contact with students where droplets may be a risk factor (i.e., symptomatic students awaiting pick up by parents/guardians).
Gaiters and bandanas are not acceptable as a non-medical face mask.
A mouth-shield is not an acceptable replacement for a non-medical face mask.
Students in grades Pre-Kindergarten to 3 may choose to wear masks while in class and common areas of the school.
Masks are mandatory for ALL visitors, including parents, who enter Grasslands schools and Division Office as they are entering an indoor public space.
Masks are mandatory at Division Office and in all departments, except when staff are in workstations or workspaces.
All Grasslands staff visiting a school must also wear a mask. In situations where student supports, parent and staff interactions require masks to be removed, social distancing and/or plexiglass barriers should be employed.
Anyone unable to wear a mask due to an approved medical condition must provide their Medical Note for Mask Exception to the school administration
Hand hygiene practices will continue in schools and on buses throughout the school year.
Placement of hand sanitizer in entrances/exits, classroom entrances, high-touch equipment, and other high traffic areas will continue this year.
Before leaving home, staff, children/students, substitute teachers, visitors, and volunteers who will access the school for work or education, must self-screen for symptoms each day that they enter the school.
Children Under 18 years of age Daily Screening Questionnaire (See Appendix A)
Daily Fit for Work Screening Questionnaire (See Appendix B)
Adults 18 years and older Daily Screening Questionnaire (See Appendix C)
Anyone that reports symptoms is directed to stay home, seek health care advice as appropriate (e.g., call Health Link 811, or their primary health care practitioner) and fill out the AHS Online Self-Assessment tool to determine if they should be tested.
Anyone who feels unwell with other symptoms should stay at home until they are well.
Schools should keep records of children’s known pre-existing medical conditions. If a child develops symptoms that could be caused by either COVID-19 or by a known pre-existing condition (e.g., allergies), the child should be tested at least once for COVID-19 to confirm that it is not the source of their symptoms before entering or returning to school. Following a negative test result, such symptoms will be considered part of the student’s baseline health. Written confirmation by a physician that a student or staff member’s symptoms are due to a chronic illness is not necessary. Repeat testing is not indicated unless the nature of the symptom changes (e.g., a chronic cough worsens).
Signs will be posted reminding persons not to enter if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Cohorting is required for elementary students in grades PreK-6. A cohort is defined as a group of students and/or staff who remain together wherever possible. Typically a cohort in a school will be a class.
Limit the number of cohorts that students in kindergarten through grade 6 are involved in.
Cohorting is dependent on the classroom environment, number of students, age and subject. It may be easier in elementary school than in junior high or high school.
Cohorting should be maintained during activities outside the classroom, such as recess and lunch breaks. If students from two different cohorts wish to socialize, they should remain 2 metres apart.
If two or more people from different cohorts are required to come within 2 metres of one another for the purposes of instruction, practice or undertaking examinations, additional protections should be instituted. Consider using engineering controls such as plexiglass barriers or partitions that extend across breathing zones and are made of materials that can be cleaned and disinfected between users, or administrative controls such as adapting the activity to minimize or eliminate close contacts.
Teachers who regularly interact within 2 metres of students in their class are considered part of the cohort. If teachers interact with more than one group of students without distancing, they are part of multiple cohorts.
If a teacher or staff member does not interact within 2 metres of students in their classes, they would not be considered part of the cohort.
Teachers/staff should not be in a cohort with each other, unless it is required for operational purposes. (i.e., a teacher and a teacher’s assistant who work with the same classroom cohort).
Students in other grades may be placed in cohorts.
Schools should institute controls to promote physical distancing as much as possible between all students/staff in areas inside and outside of the classroom, including hallways, washrooms and common areas. This may include:
Staggering start and end times for classes to avoid crowded entrances or exits and hallways.
Posting signs and marking floors with arrows to control the flow of traffic.
Removing and restaging seating in public areas to prevent gathering.
Considering limiting bathroom occupancy to support physical distancing.
It is still recommended to maintain physical distancing within a cohort whenever possible to minimize the risk for disease transmission (i.e.spacing between desks). Students are not expected to sit in their desks for the duration of the day.
If 2 metres spacing cannot be arranged between desks/tables, the greatest possible spacing is recommended. Students should be arranged so they are not facing each other (e.g., arranged in rows rather than in small groups of 4 or a semi-circle). This way, if a student coughs or sneezes, they are not likely to cough or sneeze directly on the face of another student.
Consider removing additional items or pieces of equipment that are not in use from classrooms to allow more space to spread out.
In situations where physical distancing is not possible (e.g., on the bus, in classrooms and while participating in some sporting activities), or for younger grades with play-based curricula, there should be extra emphasis on hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, not attending school when ill and cleaning and disinfecting on a regular basis before and after activities.
Schools should develop procedures for drop-off that support physical distancing where possible between all persons (except household members). Consider strategies to support physical distancing or utilize other protocols to limit contact between staff/parents/guardians/children/students as much as possible:
Designate entrances for classes/groups of students.
Physical distancing markers in crowded areas.
Stagger drop off/bus arrival times, coordinated with entry/exit.
Encourage parents/guardians to remain outside during drop-off and pick-up. There may be occasions when teachers choose to arrange class seating to increase physical distance. This may include the use of rows of desks versus tables or pods.
Close greetings (e.g. hugs, handshakes) are to be avoided. Regularly remind students about keeping their hands to themselves.
School may stagger recess/snack, lunch and class transition times to provide a greater amount of space for everyone.
At this time, assemblies will be held virtually to avoid large gatherings of people in one space.
Classroom Barrier Shields
Classroom barrier shields are available to assist with one to one or small group work (ex. BAS testing, LLI, etc.)
Emergency PPE Tubs
Each learning space in the school is equipped with an emergency PPE tub with face masks, a face shield and gloves in the event a student becomes symptomatic and extra PPE is required.
Parents, Visitors and Service Providers Entering the School
Masks are mandatory for ALL visitors, including parents, who enter Grasslands schools and Division Office as they are entering an indoor public space.
All visitors entering the school will use the self screening tool before they enter the school.
If a visitor answers YES to any of the questions, the individual must not be admitted into the school.
All visitors must sign in and sign out at the office.
Parents, volunteers and non-essential visitors will be limited at any one time in the school.
Service providers, including delivery drivers and independent contractors must mask and use the self screening tool before they enter the school.
If a service provider answers YES to any of the questions, the individual must not be admitted into the school.
In the case of a delivery driver answering Yes, the driver/school will make alternate delivery arrangements.
Schools will provide procedures regarding parents picking up and dropping off of students. As much as possible this will be done outside of the school.
Shared Use of Equipment and Student Supplies
Use of shared items or equipment is to be minimized where possible (scissors, markers, pencils, computers, etc.)
When shared items or equipment can not be cleaned or disinfected, users need to sanitize their hands before and after use.
Responding to Illness
Staff members, parents, and children/students should not enter the school if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or do not feel well.
Child/student develops symptoms while at the school:
The child/student will wear a non-medical mask if they are able to, and be moved to the infirmary.
The parent/guardian will be notified to come and pick up the student immediately.
Schools will have an emergency contact list for each child, in the event parents are unable to pick up your child within one hour.
If the child/student requires close contact and care, staff can continue to care for the child/student until the parent is able to pick up the child/student.
The student and staff should wear a mask and close interactions with the student that may result in contact with the student’s respiratory secretions should be avoided.
If very close contact is required and the child is young the staff member should also use a face shield or eye protection.
The infirmary will be cleaned and disinfected as soon as the child/student has been picked up.
Schools will maintain records of a student’s known pre-existing conditions.
Proof of a negative COVID-19 test result is not necessary for a student, teacher or staff member to return to school.
It is strongly recommended that unimmunized or partially immunized household contacts of COVID-19 cases stay home for 14 days from the date of last household exposure.
In addition, they should be monitored for symptoms for 14 days from the last day of household exposure, and if they develop any symptoms, should be taken for testing. For more information on isolation requirements for people with symptoms, please visit alberta.ca/isolation.
Confirmed Case of COVD-19
At this time, Alberta Health Services will not be notifying schools of positive COVID-19 cases and close contacts will not be notified.
Staff, students or parents may choose to inform the school administration of a positive COVID-19 test. This information is confidential unless otherwise directed by the individual or parent.
Alberta Health Services and Alberta Education have no expectation for school administrators or school authorities to identify and notify possible close contacts, or to send broad notifications to parents/guardians.
In all communications with staff, students or parents/guardians, it is important to ensure the confidentiality of an individual’s health information.
Classes should not be sent home or told not to come to school if there is a case within the class. It is important to remember that as the case is isolating and no longer at the school, the risk of transmission from that person has been removed from the school.
In light of provincial expectations on reporting, as of September 21st, after the first self-reported positive case at a Grasslands school, a letter from the principal will be sent to families via email. Subsequently, a notification will not be sent with every positive case identified at the school. If there is a significant increase in positive case numbers in a school or class, Grasslands will work with AHS to determine a possible outbreak communication.
It is important for school staff and administration to protect student/staff information as best as possible, including not disclosing personal information that may identify individuals who are positive COVID-19, to other members of the school community or to the public. In accordance with Alberta’s privacy legislation, the Personal Information Protection Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, staff will respect the health privacy of students, including their vaccination status.
Individuals are not required to share their COVID-19 test results with school administrators.
School administrators are not required to contact AHS to report student or staff cases.
Anyone with a positive COVID-19 test is required to isolate and follow the protocols outlined by Alberta Health Services. (See Appendix D - Management of Symptomatic and Positive COVID-19 Individuals.)
Reporting & Responding to High Rates of Absenteeism or Outbreaks
If there is an absence rate of 10% due to illness OR there are an unusual amount of individuals with similar symptoms, school administrators must report to Alberta Health Services (AHS) Coordinated Early Identification Response (CEIR) team at 1-844-343-0971.
Some examples of unusual numbers of ill students may include, but are not limited to:
A large proportion of students in one classroom or one grade level who are ill with similar symptoms.
A large proportion of students who may have participated in the same activity at the school, who are now ill.
A number of parent/guardian-reported cases of COVID-19 in a group that was likely to have mixed closely, such as one classroom or one grade level with shared classes.
The purpose of this is to continue to monitor for other clusters of respiratory or gastrointestinal illness and alert Alberta Health Services to potential outbreaks.
Families and staff will receive a letter from AHS if a significant number of students (10% or more) are absent from a school with respiratory illness for two or more consecutive days.
Contacting AHS to report absenteeism does not automatically mean an outbreak will be declared. Once AHS has been notified of absenteeism of 10% or an unusual number of individuals with similar symptoms, an investigation will be conducted by AHS Public Health to assess the situation and determine if an outbreak should be declared.
They will contact the school to collect additional information such as type of symptoms, onset of symptoms, number of students/staff ill, and total school population.
In some instances, the school contact may not be able to provide all of the information required and will be asked to provide students’ names and contact information so that Public Health can contact the parents of ill students to gather key information for their assessment.
School administrators/authorities are to work collaboratively with AHS Public Health under the authority of the Zone Medical Officer of Health (MOH)/designate to provide information required for an outbreak investigation, as outlined in the Alberta Public Health Act.
Alberta Health Services may recommend additional protection measures to reduce spread for the duration of the outbreak.
A Medical Officer of Health has the authority to recommend additional measures. The Grasslands School Division will work with health officials to support further measures.
Where absenteeism of 10% or greater has been identified by AHS due to illness OR there are an unusual amount of individuals with similar symptoms AHS will investigate and may declare an outbreak. The MOH/designate may recommend additional measures to reduce ongoing transmission for the duration of the outbreak, generally 14 days from when the outbreak was declared, unless absenteeism continues to increase.
Additional recommendations may include active health screening with questionnaires, increasing frequency of cleaning and disinfection, strictly maintaining cohorts, additional mask requirements, and/or limiting group/extra-curricular activities.
A Medical Officer of Health (MOH)/designate has the authority under the Public Health Act to recommend additional public health measures if they identify an unacceptable risk in a specific circumstance. Please follow all guidance and recommendations provided by the MOH/designate.
A public health recommendation to temporarily close a school and shift students to online learning due to COVID-19 cases in the school is not expected to occur frequently.
The local MOH/designate with work with the school administration to support all other preventative measures (e.g.,active health screening, masking recommendations, cohorting) before a recommendation to close a school is made.
The local MOH will consult with the Chief Medical Officer of Health (or designate) prior to making a recommendation to temporarily close a school.
Students should not enter the bus if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
Students will sanitize their hands when boarding the bus.
Seating plans will be in places and students will be required to sit in assigned seats.
Student attendance will be taken.
Cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, seats and backs, window areas, and rails will occur after each bus run.
Students and staff should be discouraged from carpooling unless they are from the same household. If carpooling is necessary, limit the number of people in the vehicle to maintain as much physical distance as possible and ensure all occupants wear masks and practice hand hygiene.
Alberta Health COVID-19 Vaccinations In Schools
This year Alberta Health Services (AHS) will be providing the opportunity for students and staff to get a COVID vaccine while at school.
This new in-school vaccination program is similar to the regular school immunization operated by AHS for tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccines. Vaccination clinics will be available in schools some time between September 7 and October 15 for eligible students in Grades 7-12, who have signed parent/guardian consent.
The choice to get a vaccine is an individual one. Schools do not require or maintain vaccination records nor will students or staff be asked for proof of immunization to attend school.
Student Learning Contingency Plans
In the event that there is a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic that impacts the education system, the following two contingencies have been determined by Alberta Education.
Scenario 1: In-school classes with enhanced health measures
Alberta Education and Alberta Health Services may mandate enhanced or increased health measures which the Grasslands School Division would be required to follow.
We will continue to rely on guidance from the Alberta Government, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and local public health officials regarding provincial and regional health measures based on local context. We will continue to work closely with Alberta Health and we will adjust recommendations when advised to do so by Alberta Health. We remain committed to communicating when health measures are adjusted.
Scenario 2: At-home learning (in-school classes are cancelled)
Grasslands will offer at-home learning opportunities to children and students based on the provincial or regional context.
Teachers continue to be responsible for assessing the progress of children and students.
Students continue to be responsible to actively engage in learning and diligently pursue their education.
School authorities, parents/guardians, children and students must continue to follow public health measures in place.
Supporting Growth in Student Learning
Under Contingency Scenario 2, school authorities can, as deemed appropriate at the local level, for Grades 1 to 9 reduce time spent teaching non-core subjects to allow for additional instruction time on core (English, Français, French Language Arts, Math, Social, and Science).
At this time, regular school programming is allowed. Until September 27th, 2021, certain programs and activities may operate under enhanced health protocols.
Students are permitted to participate in group physical activity as part of an education program curriculum (i.e., physical education class and sports academy classes may occur). Participants must continue to follow the school guidance regarding cohorting (kindergarten through grade 6), physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and use of non-medical masks when students are not physically active.
When possible, physical education should be done outside instead of inside as the risk of transmission is more likely to occur indoors rather than outdoors.
For physical education classes, administrators and teachers should, where possible, choose activities or sports that support physical distancing and limit face-to-face activities (e.g., badminton over wrestling).
Use of change rooms should be carefully managed.
Participants could come dressed for their activity or.
PE teachers should set capacity limits on use of change rooms if they are in use.
Performance Activity (Music/Drama/Dance)
Students are able to participate in a group performance activity (i.e.,singing, dancing, playing instruments, theatre) as part of their education program curriculum.
Maintain 2 metres physical distance between participating students, where possible.
Singers and wind instrument musicians should keep 2 metres away from other performers and individuals at all times.
Wind instruments should be equipped with a cover intended to prevent droplet transmission.
In indoor settings, groups should not sing or play wind instruments for more than 30 minutes at a time, with a 10-minute break afterwards to allow for air exchange in the room.
When performance activities involve singing, all singers, including students in kindergarten through grade 3, are strongly encouraged to wear masks when singing indoors.
As singing is a higher risk activity, students who have an exception to masking can be provided with another musical part (e.g.,percussion) or if the child will be singing, they should be alone in a dedicated space or room (e.g., a different classroom, using a virtual video participation option).
Work Experience, Green Certificate, & Off Campus
These programs may continue.
If the work experience placement is in a workplace, the student is expected to follow health rules set out by the workplace with the sector-specific requirements (masking, hand hygiene, vaccines, symptom checklists, etc).
Field Trips and Extracurricular Clubs
Field trips (off-site activities) must follow all health protocols while on-site and while traveling to and from the location. This includes masking indoors, hand hygiene, proof of vaccine, masking on buses, bus seating plans, enhanced cleaning, etc.
Parent permission forms for each activity must be submitted. Permission forms must outline:
Risks including contracting COVID-19
Cohorts should be maintained during transportation to and from any external field trip site, as well as at the location of the field trip site.
Schools are encouraged to plan outdoor field trip activities.
Field trips must be approved by the principal.
Extracurricular clubs and programs (ex. Art Club, Student Council) can occur. Depending on the nature of the club or program, staff will need to consider and implement health protocols such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, reduced group size, etc.
Sports and Team Events
Student athletics/sports are allowed.
As athletics and sport participation are voluntary, each participant must have a signed parent/guardian permission form prior to participation.
Permission forms will outline expectations and risks of participation.
Before and after school extra-curricular/sports events that occur indoors will be considered an extension of school activities and all health protocols must be followed.
Athletes are not required to wear masks while engaged in activity on the court or field of play.
Teams using community-based facilities are required to follow the applicable safety protocols.
For ALL others in attendance, masks are mandatory.
Spectators attendance is restricted to the following parameters:
Maximum limit of one spectator per athlete per team. This will be contingent on 1/3 of the total capacity of the viewing space in each school.
Home coaches will let visiting teams know they will have one seat per athlete. Again, the total number of seats will be dependent on 1/3 of the capacity of the viewing space and may be less than one seat per athlete in our smaller schools.
Coaches of teams must ensure they do not have more than the allocated number of spectators.
Seats will not be reallocated (ex. If a team has 10 seats but only uses 6, the extra four will not be reallocated between teams). .
Masks are mandatory.
Spectators must be physically distanced.
Spectator areas should be identified into home and away sections.
Spectators are not allowed into the building until their designated warm-up/game time.
Spectators attendance at outdoor sporting events is permitted following 2 metre physical distancing between households.
General Infection Prevention Measures
Attendees should refrain (to the extent possible) from touching their eyes, nose, mouth and face during activities.
It is important that sports/activities that involve shared equipment (e.g., shared baseballs, basketballs, soccer balls, footballs, volleyballs, etc.) include regular hand hygiene and cleaning of high-touch surfaces.
Hand hygiene should occur before and after each activity.
Respiratory etiquette is important to prevent the spread of droplets that may contain the COVID-19 virus.
Attendees should refrain from spitting and clearing their nasal passages during activities.
Attendees should proactively and regularly monitor for symptoms.
Symptomatic individuals are prohibited from participating. Students need to complete the Daily Screening Checklist before participating.
Limit celebration gestures or customs during activities (e.g., handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, chest bumps) that promote physical contact.
Water bottles are labelled with the name of the owner and not shared.
It is recommended that access to locker rooms is limited to reduce gathering.
Participants should be encouraged to bring their own equipment for any activity (shared equipment should be cleaned and sanitized at an increased frequency and between each use).
Where equipment is provided (ie. football), coaches and players will be responsible for proper cleaning and disinfecting before it is offered to the next participant.
If gym or field equipment is being used, it is strongly recommended this equipment be sanitized before and after each session.
It is recommended that equipment not be shared with other cohorts without proper sanitizing.
It is recommended that the number of people setting up and putting away the equipment be kept to a minimum.
It is strongly recommended that hand sanitizer and/or sanitizing wipes be made available to participants and those responsible for setting up and putting away equipment.
Food Sharing in Schools
Lunches and drinks/snacks are not to be shared between students.
Food classes are allowed. Classes that teach food preparation may occur as long as students follow general precautions, such as ensuring hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, wearing non-medical face masks, maintaining 2 metres physical distancing (where possible) and avoiding handling common or shared serving utensils or cookware.
Any food prepared during a class that teaches food preparation should be served by a designated person. Students should follow physical distancing measures while eating and during food preparation where possible.
Proper food handling procedures such as hand hygiene, gloves, respiratory etiquette, cleaning, and disinfection are essential.
Food sharing such as pot lucks, buffet-style services are not permitted at this time.
Hot lunch programs, teacher provided snacks or parent treats may continue provided there is a designated person serving the food and snacks/treats are individually wrapped.
For classroom meals and snacks:
Pre-packaged meals or meals served by designated staff should be the norm. No self-serve or family-style meal service should occur.
There should be no common food items (e.g., salt and pepper shakers, ketchup bottle).
Designated staff should serve food items using utensils (not fingers).
For food service program (e.g., cafeteria) establishments:
Group students in kindergarten through grade 6 in their cohorts for meal breaks. Use alternate processes to reduce the numbers of people dining together at one time.
If a school is using a common lunchroom and staggering lunch times, ensure that all surfaces of the tables and chairs (including the underneath edge of the chair seat) are cleaned and disinfected after each use.
Adapt other areas to serve as additional dining space to increase spacing among persons in the same room.
Do not use buffet-style self-serve. Instead, switch to pre-packaged meals or meals served by staff.
Dispense cutlery, napkins and other items to students/children, rather than allowing them to pick up their own items.
Outside User Groups
Until September 27th, outside user groups who are not part of the City of Brooks/Grasslands Joint User Agreement, Shortgrass Library System or Newell Concert Association will not be able to use spaces after school.
Approved outside user groups are required to follow all provincial health protocols and/or implement the Restriction Exemption Program (REP).
Additional custodial costs may be charged due to enhanced cleaning and disinfecting.
MANAGEMENT OF SYMPTOMATIC AND POSITIVE COVID-19 INDIVIDUALS