Russell and Daley detail return to school plans and plans for participation in sports and extracurricular activities

New Brunswick – Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, and Deputy Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, George Daley today, Tuesday, August 25, announced students will be able to participate in sports, extracurricular activities and physical education during the upcoming school year provided protocols set out by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, are followed – protocols based on advice and information from public health.

“So, reading, writing and arithmetic are what school is all about, or so they used to tell us,” said Russell.  “But we all know there is much more to school than can be found in the pages of a text book.

“And that’s why it’s so important that New Brunswick schools can open safely so that our children can enjoy the full educational experience that they have missed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Our children need to see their friends, interact with their teachers and other school staff, and thereby learn to navigate the world around them,” Russell added.  

“They need to socialize, learning how to solve problems and manage emotions.  They need to be part of a community, which you can’t entirely get through a computer screen, although today’s teens (and I have two of them) are definitely giving it a good try.

“We know that students need to be with their peers, to explore their interests, enhance their talents and creativity, and their mental health and social development depend on that.  So, our children need and deserve the full school experience while keeping them as safe as we can from COVID-19.”

Daley spoke to the technical aspects of including physical activity, sports, and extracurricular activities returning to schools.

“Sports and physical education are so important to a child’s development and their overall education,” said Daley.  “Students cannot be in a position to reach their full potential if we don’t take their physical and mental health into account in educational planning.

“We are encouraging teachers to use outdoor spaces as much as possible for physical education throughout this coming year,” he added.

Daley went on to say if being outside isn’t feasible, students will be permitted to use the gymnasium, which will follow a strict cleaning protocol.  He added students will be required to wash their hands prior to entering, and then again once they leave the space, and face masks will not be required during physical education classes or while students are engaged in play during a sporting event.

Students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 will participate in physical education within their class group, or bubble. As in the classroom, these groups will not be required to physically distance during physical education classes, but age-appropriate practices, such as proper hygiene etiquette and reduced physical contact, will be encouraged. Sporting equipment may be shared within the class grouping.

Class groups will maintain a two-metre distance from other groups, including any teachers or coaches that are not part of their regular class bubble. If two groups are using the gym at the same time, a divider or curtain may be used to keep them separated.

High school students will keep at least one-metre physical distance throughout physical education, as they would in their other classes. The use of markings, such as floor tape, hula hoops, or cones and general signage, is recommended to indicate where students can sit, stand, or participate according to physical distancing guidelines. Equipment will be disinfected after each use. If this is not possible, the equipment will not be used.

Intramural activities and extracurricular clubs

Intramural sporting activities will be permitted, within Kindergarten to Grade 8 classroom groupings or for high-school students who are physically distancing, following the same guidelines for physical education, provided that the province or health zone remains in the yellow phase. If a zone moves to orange or red, then all intramural activities will be suspended. In the event of an outbreak in a school, regional public health officials will provide direction to the school regarding intramural activities.

Students participating in school clubs will also be required to follow physical distancing guidelines. Whenever possible, it is recommended meetings take place virtually, for example student governance meetings or chess clubs. Guidelines for music education and music-related extracurricular activities, including band and choir, will be shared in the coming weeks.

Change rooms will be cleaned a minimum of three times a day. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 must stay within their class groupings while using the changing room. Students in Grades 9 to12 must maintain a physical distance of one metre while using the changing room.

Interscholastic sports and events

Over the 2020-21 school year, interscholastic and other extra-curricular activities will also be able to take place, provided the province or zone stays in the yellow phase. All interscholastic or extra-curricular activities or events will require an operational plan, based upon direction from Public Health officials.

Competitive sporting events for all students should be limited to subdivisions of a school district or to a small region to allow play while limiting contact across regions. Carpooling will be discouraged, and participants should arrive ready for the event, including with any necessary equipment.

Daley said any sport which falls under the umbrella of the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association (NBIAA) will follow the stages and protocols set out by the NBIAA, not the department of education.

Team rosters should be held to a reasonable number, including coaches, and attendance will be taken at each practice or game. Lists of all participants, including coaches, players and volunteers will be kept for any events. A maximum of 50 spectators will be allowed in outdoor settings, and spectators must practise physical distancing. No spectators will be permitted for events held inside the school, although virtual options are encouraged if possible.

Participants will not engage in any unnecessary physical contact, such as high-fives or handshakes. While verbal recognition of awards may take place, trophies or ribbons will be delivered at a later date.

In cases where an organized sport has a provincial governing body, the level of play and associated modified rules will comply with the operational plans developed by that body. If there is no governing body, the sport must have a province-wide operational plan that complies with the directions of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. The department will collaborate with school districts in the development of the provincial operational plans.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has released a detailed parent and public guide supporting the Return to School: September 2020 plan for the public-school system.

The Return to School: Guide for Parents and the Public provides a detailed overview of what students, parents and guardians need to know before returning to school in September. Return to School: Direction for School Districts and Schools outlines the requirements schools and school districts must meet while developing their COVID-19 operational plans, which will be made available to parents. It works in conjunction with Public Health guidance to the department and may be changed based upon the evolution of the pandemic.

The department will continue to work with educators, schools and school districts in the coming months. Schools and districts will make individual school operational plans available to parents on Thursday, Sept. 3.

Parents with questions about the Return to School plan can email edcommunication@gnb.ca. For questions about the Laptop Subsidy Program, parents can call 1-833-901-1963 or email EECDRTS-EDPERAE@gnb.ca

editor@stcroixcourier.ca