Mask wearing in school hallways is just one of the many challenges Red Deer students will face when they return to classrooms.
According to instructional videos created by Red Deer public and Catholic school districts, students and staff will have to follow directional arrows and distance markers in school corridors when classes start next week.
Lockers and many libraries will be off limits — which means many students will have to carry around their belongings between classes, and make special requests for book deliveries.
And shared spaces will be regularly sprayed down, or “fogged,” by daytime cleaners.
Bruce Buruma, community relations director for Red Deer Public Schools, said the spray is one also used at health care facilities and is not likely to aggravate kids with allergies or respiratory conditions.
He added that more caretakers are being hired to help sanitize schools day and night.
Among the other changes are staggered recesses and school lunch breaks.
All paperwork must also be “quarantined” for 72 hours before changing hands, so there will be delays in the return of tests and marked assignments, said Buruma.
He added schools are moving toward more digital assignments and tests as a result.
Red Deer Catholic schools have a video presentation about new rules on schools buses — such as entering from the back and leaving row by row from the front.
Students are being urged to not touch the back of seats or windows, to sit with their siblings and not change places on the bus.
Parents will have to book ahead for appointments to enter schools in either district.
They must do a daily assessment to ensure their children are well before sending them to school, and immediately pick up their kids from an isolation room if the school secretary calls to say they are sick.
The COVID-19 crisis “is challenging us to rethink the things we are doing,” said Buruma after public school teachers entered schools on Wednesday to re-arrange classrooms.
Desks were moved to maximize spacing between students and to ensure students would be sitting in rows instead of face to face.
Buruma said many questions were aired and solutions discussed. Among them were staggered start times for different grades, and allowing students to enter schools through more doorways to reduce clustering at entryways.
“We are doing the best we can,” said Buruma, who noted that Red Deer Public Schools has now heard from 88 per cent of parents who have indicated nearly 92 per cent of students will be back in the classroom.
He believes some additional teachers will have to be hired to assist, as eight per cent of students will be learning from home.