Onion Lake Department of Education has laid out three possible scenarios as schools aim to reopen in the next month.
During a Facebook video posted on Wednesday, Director of Education Fred Dillion said it will be up to Chief and Council and the Pandemic Response team to decide which option they go with.
The first scenario will run as normal as possible with safety measures in places such as the cohort system, constant sanitation of the building and closely monitoring students and staff.
The second scenario, which Dillion called “50/50”, will have each half of the student body alternating every week. During the week of no in-person classes, students will take their courses online or through homeschooling.
The last scenario will have the curriculum taught strictly through online learning, which Dilion hopes will be possible if needed.
“Our biggest challenge with that one is internet service,” said Dillion. “Onion Lake is in the process of upgrading their internet service to accommodate 1400 students plus community members.”
The Department of Education will provide computers to students who do not have access to one.
The board is in the process of a Jordan Principle proposal, which is a funding service through the federal government to respond to the needs of First Nations children.
“This money will be used for internet service where each household where a student resides will get a portable internet unit without jeopardizing the speed or quality of service, but that will take a while.”
Dillion adds that once schools reopen, parents will be invited to the buildings to witness what the school board has implemented.
He said the safety of the community all comes down to social distancing, hand sanitizer use and cleaning down high touch surfaces.
The community will have masks available but they have not announced it as a requirement, yet.
“[If masks are required, they will be used] for grades 5 and up. The younger ones aren’t required to wear the masks, is what we were told. Why? Because you know how children are, they like to touch things. If they wear a mask it doesn’t matter. They will still touch their faces and so forth.”
Dillon believes bussing will be a challenge with social distancing requirements.
“We have roughly 1400 students in our system and staff wise there are around 270 staff. Our number one priority is the safety of our students and staff, so we will do our due diligence.”
The First Nation’s plan is similar to what has been implemented by the Government of Saskatchewan, which was updated this week for divisions wanting to mandate masks, with protocols being established for transportation, nutrition, recess times to eliminate sharing and large groups.
“This is not education telling you what you need to do because parents have a choice. You can choose to home school, you can choose to home study, you can choose to send your kids to schools, that is your choice. We’re not taking that away. All we’re doing is presenting potential scenarios so that the community is aware of what we’re going to do,” said Onion Lake Department of Education staff member Terry Clarke.
“We will not start school until the community is informed of what we’re doing, and the teachers and students are prepared. Although we said we’re going to start school September 2nd or 3rd, that may not happen”
The education staff has been monitoring what other communities have been doing as school boards have been releasing their reopening plans.
Onion Lake families will be able to express their concerns at a community meeting on August 19th at the Onion Lake Memorial Communiplex Arena.