Prairie Land approaching school re-entry with limited mask usage

Written by Terri Huxley

In an effort to get back to normal, Prairie Land School Division is opting for a more open school re-entry plan for when school begins.

Masks will be accepted, encouraged and enforced based on the discretion of parents.

Teachers themselves can choose whether to continue wearing a mask or not.

Trustees were on board with the approach, noting rural Alberta is much different to that of urban schools and that this will make a great learning opportunity for students to understand the concept of acceptance.

During a principal meeting with Superintendent Cam McKeage, he stated principals and their schools wished to hold some local autonomy when it comes to extra COVID-19 measures, saying that with the Prairie Land division being so large with many miles spread between each school it would be smart to allow the schools to choose when a lockdown or at-home learning is appropriate for them whereas addressing outbreaks on a regional level.

As an extra precaution, hydrostatic spraying in schools will be done on a two week basis with increased cleaning and hygiene and distancing also implemented.

“These are good practices we learned from the onset of the pandemic,” said McKeage.

Additional hand sanitizer supplied by Alberta Health Services is still on hand from the supplies unused from last school year.

Trustees mentioned that there were many complaints about this hand sanitizer that was used as it was quite harsh on skin.

They asked if there were any softer options which administration agreed there was and would look into it further but noted it would cost a little extra to purchase, not that this was a deterrent.

Parents raised concerns that their child would be automatically vaccinated at the same time they are given other vaccines based on age but administration stated that consent would need to be given first and that no child would be vaccinated otherwise.

The province has mandated masks be worn by children on bus rides to and from school which the division has no choice in at this time.

A policy was passed at the regular meeting of trustees on Tues. Aug 24 where it defined injury and illness and the different approaches between them.

For a situation involving illness, staff will watch the student and their symptoms, provide the student with a mask, use strict handwashing techniques, maintain physical distancing and wear gloves and or face shield while attending to the student in the infirmary.

Parents/guardians will be notified and asked to pick up their child as soon as possible.

School rebuilds

The Delia School rebuild is now entering the final stages of its creation with an estimated move-in time by mid October.

Demolition of the old school will take place 10 days later.

“It’s been a busy summer for everyone in epic proportions but its fun,” said Assistant Superintendent Steve Neilsen. “We’re getting close to the final parts and starting to see it come together.”

He noted that flooring is now across the school as well as the gym. Landscaping is now taking center-stage with sidewalks being poured, trees being planted and sod laid.

Playground installation won’t take place until spring.

As for Morrin School, the design is about 90 per cent complete and some good news has come from the provincial government in terms of additional funding.

The province, after discussion with the school division, agreed to front the bill for the concrete slab needed as foundation for the new school and provide a contingency of five per cent for any materials inflated in price due to COVID-19.

The concrete slab is estimated to cost around $1.1 million.

Neilsen shared they will be breaking ground on the new school by spring of 2022.

Trustees were asked for approval of a couple of items that needed extra funding including air control and portable bleachers.

The air control for the entire school comes to $80,000 while the bleachers, similar to that of Delia and J.C.Charyk in Hanna, cost up to $80,000 as well.

Trustees approved both purchases.


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.