Cafeteria shuttered but yard 'in use all day': Montreal schools reconfigured for COVID-19
MONTREAL -- Classes at most English school boards begin next week, and students will have to adjust to a new normal, with the reconfigured school interiors showing just how different things will seem.
At Willingdon Elementary School in NDG, for example, the cafeteria will be closed. Students will be eating in their classrooms, and communal tables have been switched out for individual ones.
Different grades will use different staircases to avoid crossing paths, and recess will be at different times depending on each student’s “bubble.”
Next week, when the school's 500 students walk into sparkling clean classrooms, they'll also find them equipped with hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray.
Staff have been outfitting schools for weeks ahead of the first day of classes, and teachers say it hasn’t been easy.
They've had to think about a multitude of small questions: how to deal with science experiments, when kids are bent over the same equipment? What to do about water fountains?
“The biggest challenge is working in the space that we have with the same number of children,” said Willingdon health teacher Lara Belinsky.
A lot of the changes are these new physical requirements meant to keep distance between kids. In line with provincial regulations, students will not be forced to wear masks inside the classrooms.
That also means all the school's space will be getting much more use than usual.
“We have three staggered recesses in the morning, three staggered lunches and three staggered recesses in the afternoon,” said Willingdon Principal Carmen Nicolas.
“Our school yard is pretty much in use all day.”
If kids and their parents find things strange next week, they'll just be a few weeks behind teachers in trying to reenvision what they've always known.
“We're rewriting history,” said Belinsky. “We're reinventing the wheel in terms of how things are done.”
Watch the video above for Billy Shields's full report on the school's configuration.