WSES Orca News

Return To School Edition: Sunday, January 9, 2022

Happy New Year

So far we have not had the January that we might have expected, but after experiencing the sun and the warmth that today brought, we are reminded to appreciate the gifts that we receive when we can.

Increased Safety Protocols

I would like to start by thanking you and the staff for the flexibility and resilience that you showed last week. I know that when school participation is limited as it was last week, or when school is closed on short notice for things like a snow day, it can put a great deal of strain on families to respond. As the Superintendent explained in her Friday communication, with the possibility that Omicron could force a functional closure of the building due to insufficient staff being available to operate safely, understand that you may have to do so again. Good planning and practice can reduce worry in stressful or chaotic situations, so I ask that you think now about what you might do if you learn that your children will have to be home for 3-7 days.

This new variant is extremely contagious. My own family has been affected and I must now isolate until Wednesday - I expect to return on Thursday. Fortunately, Mrs. Allen, who has led the school for extended periods in the past, has willingly stepped up to act as Teacher-in-Charge during my absence. Please treat her and all staff with kindness and understanding as they work to provide the safest and most inviting learning environment they can.

We spent last week receiving directives, digesting information and creating plans and procedures for your children's return tomorrow. To grasp the changes, It will be easiest to remember what school was like in September 2020, to imagine what the school will look like tomorrow: one-way hallways with arrows on the floor, closed-off drinking fountains in exchange for water bottle filling stations only, group tables and carpets removed to create space to spread out the desks in classrooms as much as possible, classes using a variety of entrances/exits to reduce congestion; students meeting their teachers outside at the start of the day and being escorted inside, and, the older students dismissing 10 minutes early at the end of the day to further reduce congestion, these things are all back.

Of course, the big difference is that now almost all students are masked (over 95% at WSES - some students have mask exemptions) and an ever-increasing number of people are vaccinated. I know that there is worry knowing that Omicron is so contagious that interactions that did not result in transmission in the past, may do so today. Nevertheless, we have good protocols and I can tell you that our experience has been that families in our school community have taken their responsibility seriously and have lived up to the "social contract" that I spoke about in September, 2020. Please continue to be vigilant and do the daily health check - do not send your child to school if they have any symptoms or are not feeling well. We need to keep students and staff safe: our goal is to try to avoid a functional closure and it will take all of us pulling together to achieve that.

Complete Communicable Disease Safety Plan - Updated 08 Jan 2022

We summarized some of the important features students will experience in the paragraphs above, but if you'd like to read the complete plan, here it is.

Drop-off in the Morning

Please note that the roads and sidewalks have had black ice for the last number of days. No amount of salt/chemicals can remove it all. PLEASE DRIVE AND WALK SLOWLY AND WITH CARE. We do not want any fender-benders, or worse!

Starting tomorrow, the teachers will escort the students into the building. Parents are not allowed in the building according to the upgraded protocols. This, unfortunately, includes the parents/guardians of the kindergarten students. BUT, their teachers will be able to support the students and bring them inside. Please take care to distance as much as possible. Morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up cannot be a time for adults to socialize with one another, please.

1. Division 8 (Mrs. Paolozza) and Division 10 (Mrs. Fraser) will meet their classes on the front patio near the West Sechelt Elementary sign at the front of the school.

2. The kindergarten students in Division 11 (Ms. Tlell and Mrs. Marion) and Division 12 (Mrs. Dressler and Ms. Smart) will meet their classes on the front patio near the flag pole at the front of the school.


a) Division 1 (Mr. Clayton), Division 2 (Mrs. Rempel), Division 7 (Mrs. Andres) and Division 9 (Ms. Campbell) will meet on the south side of the field that has the swings.The gate by the dumpster will be unlocked so they can walk directly to the field if they arrive from that side of the property); and,

b) Division 3 (Mr. Desharnais), Division 4 (Mrs. Allen), Division 5 (Mr. Allen) and Division 6 (Mrs. Stinson) will meet on the side with the little playground and the big covered play space.

Note: adjustments may be made in the future.

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Talk to your Children

Please take time to speak with your children to put them at ease about the return to school. We do want them to understand that the staff have put increased safety protocols in place but we do not want to frighten them, either.
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Spacing Out

This photo shows how the learning commons has been adapted. Most chairs have been removed and only two students will work at each table. The chairs are also oriented to avoid face-to-face work and also to avoid face-to-face contact with those walking the one-way hallway. It is usually older students in this space: they will be asked to not change the orientation of the chairs and to not move chairs together to create groups of three or more.
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This shows the hallway markings. The short hallways off of the big one-way hallway that circles the school are two-way, but students and staff are directed to pass on designated sides of the hallway to avoid face-to-face encounters as much as possible. Also, recess and lunch traffic has been separated to use three different entrances to further avoid face-to-face encounters and to reduce congestion. Please speak with you children about how we are going to coach them in how to travel the school using these measures.
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Sample Map of Classroom Movement

I'm Hesitant About my Child's Return: What about Homework Packages?

If a child is sick/injured/recovering from surgery, etc, we will provide some work just like we would pre-pandemic. That includes if they have been ordered to isolate (when that happens, it’s like they are sick - they are away for medical reasons). However, the District has directed schools to focus on in-person learning at this time so teachers will not be providing work packages for families who want to pause their child's return longer in order to wait to see how things go. We hope you will understand.

Thank you

More information will be coming. For example, we will explain why your child will soon receive an "in case of functional closure" package.