Essex schools make final preparations as in-class learning returns

by Adam Gault

Last week, administrators and educators of Essex area schools were busy making final safety preparations that allowed them to welcome students back to class. A scheduled return to class was planned for the first “cohorted” groups of students with the Greater Essex County District School Board elementary schools and Windsor-Essex Catholic District elementary schools this week, due to COVID-19.

  Both Essex Public School and Holy Name Catholic Elementary School in Essex have been busy ensuring that students and parents can expect the safest educational experience when the majority of students at both institutions are expected to make the in-class return.

  Today, students with last names beginning from A-L will return to the local public school, while students with the last names beginning with M-Z will return on Friday. This will be done to keep students within their assigned cohort, and limit the physical interaction between members of the student body.

  “I think it speaks volumes to our school, the fact that families trust us with their children to make sure they’re safe when they come back, that we have protocols and procedures in place,” Essex Public School Principal, Bruno Pallotto, explained of the majority of students opting for in-class learning. “I feel they have confidence in our staff to ensure we’re going to do the best possible protocols to ensure the safety of their children.”

  Recesses will be allowed, but students must stay within their designated cohort. Activities and sports with shared objects, such as basketball, will not be permitted.

  Online learning provides its own set of challenges, not least of which is access to a computer or the internet, which can be a challenge to some families. Since 2019, Essex Public School has provided a number of student families with internet accessible devices, which can be used for online learning, if desired by the student.

  “Last year, we allowed parents to apply for technology for their child or children,” Pallotto explained. “They still have these devices. At Essex Public School, we probably distributed close to 60 devices to families that needed them.”

  Holy Name Catholic School will also undergo a similar staggered start over a two-day period, that will also have students return to in-class learning in their own respective cohorts.

  “We’ve got our team working on distancing the desks, we’ve had training on the use of PPE, just going through those back-to-school guidelines and making sure we’ve ticked all the boxes getting everything ready for the kids,” Holy Name Principal, Mary Reynolds, said. “We’re excited to have them back.”

  Holy Name has also had more than three-quarters of the student population opt for in-person learning, so the gymnasium will be converted into a classroom setting for the time-being, to allow an opportunity for spaced indoor learning, as well as additional outdoor physical activity.

  “I know that parents are anxious, and I know that children can be anxious, but the staff is very excited to welcome them back,” Reynolds said. “We’re happy to get them in, socializing, and as back to normal as we can be during this time and we can’t wait to see them.”