With a new school year just over the horizon for most kids in London, Ont., Global News was offered an inside look on Wednesday at how one east end public school is preparing for a return to class amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bonaventure Meadows Public School serves about 400 students between junior kindergarten and Grade 8.
Like all other schools in the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), Bonaventure Meadows has undergone some changes in order to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.
That includes countless physical distancing reminders, signs to direct the flow of traffic in hallways and capacity limits on washrooms.
Water fountains have also been turned off in order to reduce congestion in hallways, with students encouraged to bring water bottles that they can fill at various water bottle filling stations in the school.
“It’s definitely been busy,” said Bonaventure Meadows principal Wendy MacInnis.
MacInnis, along with all staff at the east London school, have worked long hours making preparations for a new school year amid the pandemic.
Most of the signage has been put up, but MacInnis said there are still some final touches that need to be added, including a divider to be painted onto the school yard, which is intended to help with physical distancing during recess.
“We’re hopeful that everything will go smoothly on Monday,” MacInnis said.
“We’ll have hiccups along the way, and we’ll cross the bridge when we get there, but we have taken every possible safety measure and precaution to ensure a safe arrival for our children.”
While similar signage can be found at different TVDSB schools, MacInnis said each school’s specific preparations will vary depending on its population or physical layout.
At Bonaventure Meadows, the preparations were mainly directed by the school’s own staff.
“There has been a lot of collaboration over the summer months with other colleagues with other buildings, but it’s not like a one size fits all,” MacInnis said.
As for enforcing rules in classrooms, MacInnis said teachers will also have some creative freedom in how they do that.
“Like handwashing, for example. We certainly aren’t able to dismiss the entire class to go and hand wash at the same time, so that would look different… from class to class and teacher to teacher,” MacInnis said.
“We have allowed (teachers) to choose what works for them.”
MacInnis described the renovation process as a test of the school’s flexibility as staff prepares for an unprecedented return to class.
“Things will change and they’ll evolve as we get the kids back and we’ll go through those motions together,” MacInnis said.
“We still have a few more things left to do on that to-do list that’s never ending, but our number one priority is making sure all these kids come back and they are welcomed into a safe environment.”
The physical renovations are only one aspect of the changes to be seen in the upcoming school year.
TVDSB has made masks mandatory for all staff and students, high school students are being placed into cohorts and elementary students will undergo a staggered start to the year starting Sept. 14.
On top of that, a number of provincial guidelines have also been released, including what happens in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak at school.
More details on what to know for returning to school in the London area can be found here.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.