September 4, 2020
Dear R.F Staples Community,
Yesterday and today we welcomed students back to school. There are many new procedures and routines that the students will need to get used to. One major component of returning to school is wearing masks.
Depending on what document you reference, there are some from late July, mid-August, and now a new order that Dr. Hinshaw released on August 29th, you may not have the correct information or wording. To make sense of what is required it is also important to read the document in detail and not take one line or sentence in isolation.
Order 33-2020 from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, dated and signed August 29, 2020, states the following.
8. All students attending grades 4 through 12, staff member and visitors must wear a non-medical face mask that covers their mouth and nose while attending an indoor location within a school, unless the student, staff member or visitor:
(a) is unable to place, or remove a non-medical face mask without assistance;
(b) is unable to wear a non-medical face mask due to a mental or physical concern or limitation;
(c) is consuming food or drink in a designated area;
(d) is engaging in physical exercise;
(e) is seated at a desk or table
(i) within a classroom or place where the instruction, course or program of study is taking place, and
(ii) where the desks, tables and chairs are arranged in a manner
(A) to prevent persons who are seated from facing each other, and
(B) to allow the greatest possible distance between seated persons;
(f) is providing or receiving care or assistance where a non-medical face mask would hinder that caregiving or assistance; or
(g) is separated from every other person by a physical barrier.
Before students returned, staff discussed at length the conditions required to not wear masks in class. It is understood that if students are seated and can face forward, regardless of their physical separation with others, students can take off their masks. It is important to consider and ask, does being seated and facing forward for lessons best represent an environment conducive to learning? If I may, I would like to paraphrase what Mr. Toporowski told his classes.
If we want our classrooms to be as normal as possible where we can talk to each other, look at each other, and ask questions then we need to wear masks.
Staff are concerned that students would be wearing masks all day long. Having students face forward and not face each other all day long is not ideal either. Returning to learning in a school building and a classroom is about the interactions between staff/students and students/students. That social dynamic is a major component of learning. In order to have conversations, get clarification from a classmate, and face someone that is asking a question during a lesson, would mean that students can’t face forward.
In the beginning masks may be worn more than needed, but staff and students must get accustomed to the routines and new learning environment. As staff work on how they deliver their lessons or do an activity, they will be looking to find opportunities for students to take their masks off. It is important to have a well thought out lesson plan first and for staff to do the best they can to minimize risk. That does not mean our teachers have not been preparing but this represents a major shift in teaching.
During the staggered entry, staff have let students know that we want feedback regarding the re-entry plans. We are looking for solutions, not complaints.
Wayne Rufiange, Principal
R.F. Staples Secondary School