Return to School
Return to School September 2020.
24 June 2020.
I’m sure you have found it hard to keep track of what the situation will be for your children returning to school in September. I issued some brief information relating to this in the June newsletter last week, which I hope you received, but within 24 hours, it was already out of date as the Education Minister amended information and dates again.
In school, I have already been put measures in place for our children returning. Following last week’s guidance, I set up a classroom which ensured 2m distancing for all children. As in all primary schools, we have shared double desks, so one child will sit at each desk 2m apart and the teacher safely distanced too. This obviously means only 15 children can be accommodated and we would be looking at a part time week in school, supplemented with home learning. This is not ideal, but as a school, we must follow the guidance issued for the safety of the children and staff.
Last Friday’s new advice to reduce to 1m distancing really just added more confusion and ministers promised full returns for all children in many schools, which at the minute I could not guarantee in Victoria Park. This guidance does not really alter our set up in our classrooms as we still only have 15 double desks and the only way for all children to come in is to sit side by side and this does not give 1m distancing.
Unfortunately, I do not have 14 spare classrooms for the other half of each class to return at once. I don’t have furniture for the other 200 children, nor 14 extra teachers to accommodate half classes in church halls, orange halls or similar around the area. I have however looked at the possibility of using our library, dining hall and Sydenham room to see if I could accommodate some more children safely within the school building. This still doesn’t allow me to bring all children in but possibly prioritising older pupils for a full return first.
It is hard to envisage what the covid19 infection rate could be by September and we are all hoping it will have reduced as close to zero as possible. In this situation, it may be safe for all children to return and I couldn’t imagine anything better than to see all of our children coming back to Victoria Park and returning to some form of normality!
At this stage, I cannot give you any definite answers or promises other than that P7 will return on week beginning Monday 24th August and P2 to P6 will return from 1st September. As outlined above, I cannot confirm that this be in part or fulltime classes. New P1s will follow the usual small group return and will receive their starting days and times for the first 4 weeks by email this week.
I will have a range of measures in place to ensure social distancing within the grounds, including staggered start and finishing times, increased hygiene and hand washing procedures, enhanced cleaning, clear signage and reminders, restriction of visitors inside the school, postponement of swimming, assemblies, large gatherings and after school clubs, review of school dinners which can be delivered safely, probably to classrooms, and one way systems in the school building.
The situation will probably continue to change over the summer months. Please continue to prepare for a return to school by buying school uniform, PE kits and all of the normal routines you do over the summer. Personal equipment, P4-P7 schoolbags, P1 to P3 Book bags and stationery items may not be used initially as we may have to limit things coming to and from school, but hopefully within a short period, children may be able to resume using their own belongings.
I will continue to monitor the situation closely between now and August and to put in place every measure that I can to ensure that as many of our children can return as possible, but only to a safe environment and one that you are content to send your child in to. Before the return, I will inform you of the numbers of children coming in, groupings and starting dates, staggered starting times and all other protocols required around the school.
I appreciate that some of the measures I will be required to put in place may cause inconvenience to many families and make childcare arrangements difficult but I know you will be as patient and supportive of our school and our staff as you always are, and we will work together to get everyone back safely to Victoria Park as quickly as we can.
Our children and staff have worked hard over the past three months in very trying conditions and new “parent-home-teachers” have probably had a few stressful days of lessons, but please take the time now to have a rest and enjoy some holiday time together outside, or if you have the chance, around Northern Ireland. All of our children will be in the same boat of catching up, academically and emotionally, and we’ll return with renewed energy and enthusiasm to begin to do this in the new term.
Mrs A. Gourley.