FREDERICTON (GNB) – The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development released today parameters for the public-school system for the 2020-21 school year.

“Ensuring we have a plan in place that support the safety of staff and quality student learning in a healthy and safe environment for the long term is a critical part of moving forward through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy. “We remain committed to working with school districts and Public Health to meet the needs of students and staff, while positioning learners for success. However, families, learners and educators must understand the school and classroom environment will be quite different from the one they left in March 2020.”

The Return to School: September 2020 plan outlines the operational requirements schools and school districts must meet while developing their COVID-19 operational plans. It works in conjunction with the Public Health guidance to the department and may be changed based upon the evolution of the pandemic.

Students in kindergarten to Grade 8 will attend school full time and students in Grades 9 to 12 will be taught using blended learning methods, which supplement instruction in classrooms with distance instruction. This may include, online course work, guided projects, experiential learning or co-op placements.

Some classrooms may have smaller groupings, depending upon the grade level. K-8 students will stay within their class grouping throughout the day. Transition times, such as arrival, breaks and lunches, will be staggered.

Physical distancing is required for students in Grades 9 to 12 and will be observed to the greatest extent possible.

“Teachers will identify gaps in learning from the 2019-20 school year and use a targeted approach, ensuring students meet the core curricular outcomes,” said Cardy. “While we are pausing the co-ordinated rollout of green paper initiatives for one year, we encourage schools to use concepts outlined in the Succeeding at Home document, such as mixed groupings, to meet student needs within the operational requirements for the 2020-21 school year.”

Public access to school buildings will be limited to students, school staff and those who receive permission, in advance, from the principal. Students, staff and visitors will be subject to a screening process. Students, and their families, and staff must monitor themselves for symptoms outlined by Public Health and stay home if they feel unwell.

Some schools may change their drop-off and pick-up schedules.

“The pandemic situation is constantly evolving, and this plan will allow the education system to be responsive to the needs of educators and students throughout the 2020-21 school year,” said Cardy.

The department will continue to work with educators, schools, and school districts in the coming months. More information on facilities, scheduling and transportation will be communicated directly to families through the school districts this summer as schools develop their individual plans.

Parents may also call the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development at 1-844-288-3888.