The school district says the province could introduce further back-to-school rules at any time. (Contributed)

Majority of Princeton parents will send their kids to school

Approximately 95 per cent of children in Princeton will head back to the classroom Sept. 10 and 11.

That’s according to a survey circulated by the Nicola-Similkameen School District.

“We got very good results,” said assistant superintendent Jameel Azziz, who added, during an interview Monday, there were two days for parents to return the survey.

The small percentage of children who will not return will be home-schooled, or pursue their studies through distance learning.

Related: B.C. dads file suit against province over back-to-school COVID plan

As the start of school approaches, the district is still massaging its plans for student safety, said Azziz, as the district is aware that further rules from the province could be introduced at any time.

All staff, and students between Grades 8 and 12, will be required to wear masks when in high traffic areas like hallways. Masks, which are also mandatory on buses, will be provided by the district.

Younger students may choose to wear masks, or not, said Azziz.

Also under the provincial rules, students will be sorted into learning groups, to reduce the number of people they come in contact with.

For elementary and middle school students, groups will be no larger than 60 people. Secondary school groups will be capped at 120.

At Princeton Secondary School, students in Grades 8 and 9 will form one learning group, and students in Grades 10 through 12 will comprise a second group, according to Azziz.

It’s the district’s goal to physically separate the two groups within the school building, effectively creating two separate areas. Each learning group will have its own entrance and exit.

Breaks and lunches will also be staggered.

There will also be a focus on increased sanitation, and possibly addition help in the hallways to monitor student behaviour and safety.

The amount of fresh air being circulated in all schools in Princeton will be doubled, said Azziz.

“We are trying to make sure we have as much fresh air as possible.”

This will trigger higher heating and air conditioning costs, he said, but does not require any equipment changes.

Unlike earlier this year, students remaining at home will not receive online learning support from their local schools.

Families who wish to keep their kids home will have to pursue independent homeschooling options, or register their children at a distance learning centre.

While physical education will continue “right now sports are kind of off the table,” said Azziz. “There will be no inter-district play.”

He called that unfortunate “as we know that sports is one of the things that really connects students with the school.”

Azziz said a return to school can be an important part of children’s mental health. “No matter who you are, this has stressed you out.”

It is unknown what will take place if a student or staff member at one of the schools tests positive for COVID. Those decisions will be made by the province and provincial health authorities, said Azziz.

“That would be a medical decision.”

Related: B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

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