Schools have lots of new signs, floor stickers and other devices to help guide students as they return to the classroom. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

VIDEO: What a Langley school looks like when kids return Sept. 10

Principal of a Willoughby elementary offered a tour to show some of the changes made

Lynn Fripps Elementary classrooms and halls were home to more than 560 children before COVID-19.

When school resumes Thursday, Sept. 10, almost all of the students will be returning to class, according to their families.

”We’re welcoming them in for a great year of learning,” principal Kim Anderson said.

The district surveyed families about their plans for their children. District wide about 90 per cent of families responded. Of those 83 per cent said they planned to send the kids back into the classroom. In the Lynn Fripps community in Willoughby, 96 per cent of families submitted the survey and of those, about 90 per cent said they would be sending their children to school.

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In contrast, the end of the school year in June saw about 30 per cent of the normal school population had returned when the provincial government first re-opened schools.

Anderson outlined what is happening at her school to make students and staff safe for the return to the classroom. She noted that each school has the district guidelines but adapts them to the particular space.

“A lot of our orientation week will be teaching the children, making sure they are all aware of all of our protocols and policies,” Anderson said.

The first big change the kids will notice is that they will enter and exit directly to their assigned classrooms.

Students will attend orientation in small groups and work with staff to learn the new procedures and school layout. There’s lots of new signage, floor stickers, and more.

Anderson said the June return to school with tighter controls in place and the district’s summer session were good test runs to get procedures in place and see how well students do in what’s called the ‘new normal’.

“We used the June model,” Anderson said of summer session.

RELATED: Parents mull options for Langley return to schools

Lynn Fripps Elementary had nine classes with about 15 children in each class. The summer session classes lasted three weeks.

Anderson said it reminded her of just how resilient children are with change.

Five sites around the Langley School District offered summer sessions, offering extra instruction to about 500 students.

To help people understand the new normal and what that means for back to school, the district has been sending out information.

Superintendent Gord Stewart encouraged people to read the district’s Transition Support Model plan, available on the district website to help make informed decisions about back to school.

“These documents will also assist teachers and staff; getting them familiar with our new normal in education,” he said. “Our start to the school year will look and feel very different. What remains the same, is the ongoing hard work and dedication from all our staff.”

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So what happens with some traditional aspects of education or school events?

• Classrooms:

“Students will be in a classroom, and they will do much of their learning in that classroom for much of the day,” Anderson said.

The district is working on classroom student numbers but students will remain in their cohorts.

• Bathrooms:

“All of our bathrooms have new protocols that allow us to maintain one student per bathroom.”

Signage and waiting spaces have been set up, and students will practice new procedures during orientation.

• Libraries/common areas:

“All of our common spaces like our libraries and our learning commons and our music rooms and our gyms all have distinct exits and entrances so that students have common traffic flows and cohorts don’t run into each other,” she said.

• Playgrounds:

“We’ll be having staggered recess and lunch times,” the principal said.

Staff have divided the school yard and playground so children will get to play with children in their cohort.

“We’ll rotate those zones through the year.”

Small groups of kids during orientation will work with staff to learn new procedures before everyone is put into their classes and cohorts.

• School gardens:

Students will still get to get their hands dirty in the school gardens.

“We’ve just found that the outdoors is a really great place for kids to be, and it will really help with their wellness and mental health,” the principal said.

The school is partnered with the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) and the kids grow flowers and plants all over the school grounds. In the past the produce has been used to create soups and other dishes that were served at the school to show children what can come of their efforts but that may not be possible.

“We grow them right from seeds,” Anderson said… “We really have tried the farm to table.”

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• Assemblies and concerts:

Technology and creativity are being used to create experiences.

“We can put things together that look like assemblies. We can connect with our families and our students in other ways, so while we may not have them all in one space, we can connect them.”

Students will put together numbers or learn songs for concerts or events but performing will be different.

“We just won’t have the in-person experiences,” Anderson said.

• Lunch/snacks:

“In our classrooms, students will be supervised during the eating time,” the principal said.

Outdoor time when children are allowed to snack will also be supervised and students will be taught that sharing is not possible at this time.

• Manners/behaviour:

In COVID-19, there’s a new set of manners. People can’t hold doors open for others or share a snack, small gestures that in the past conveyed caring or kindness.

“I think we teach kids what we’ve always taught kids, we have to teach them the respect, and the virtues we’ve always worked on, the character building hat we’ve always done, respect and responsibility and ownership.”

“We’re welcoming them in for a great year of learning,” Anderson said.

• Student mental health:

“One of the strengths in all of our school communities is being able to get to know our kids really well and get connection with the families.”

Anderson said teachers are accustomed to meeting children where they are at emotionally and mentally, and supporting them.

“I don’t know if it’s COVID specific. It’s what we do all of the time. We meet kids that are going through all different things.”

• Furniture:

The district has removed soft surfaces such as couches, upholstered chairs or bean bag chairs, from schools. What’s left are plastic and metal chairs, solid-surface desks and other easily cleanable surfaces.

RELATED OPINION PIECE: Our View: Clash over back to school was avoidable

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Sinks have been installed in the portables at Lynn Fripps Elementary so students and staff can wash often. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Principal Kim Anderson shows the set up of one of the four school portable classrooms at Lynn Fripps Elementary. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Schools have lots of new signs, floor stickers and other devices to help guide students as they return to the classroom. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Lynn Fripps Elementary has student gardens. Principal Kim Anderson said the kids will still get to get their hands dirty in the outdoor areas when they return to class. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

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