Canyons District principals and administrators have spent the summer carefully preparing for students to return safely and stay physically distant with the aim preventing illness in the age of COVID-19.
School administrators have been tasked with designing operational plans eyed toward physical distancing based on each school’s individual layout. As part of the Canyons District Back-to-School Action Plan, each CSD school has created its own site-specific safety plan, which were posted on school and CSD websites on Aug. 1.
Parents are encouraged to look at the plan for their child’s school in preparation for the school year. Both the state-required plans of the District and CSD schools were developed with guidance from the Utah governor’s office and the Utah State Board of Education.
Altara Elementary Principal Nicole Svee-Magann has made efforts to maximize space inside the school building. “In the hallway, because it’s often hard for kids to visualize six feet, we are placing dots every six feet so that students have that reminder. We are also placing directional arrows on the floor to mitigate crowding,” she said.
“We are taking out excess furniture and spreading desks as far apart as possible,” she said. “In the lunchroom we are seating children diagonally across from each other so they are not sitting face to face.”
Mount Jordan Middle Principal Dr. Matt Watts said the nice fall weather will likely beckon students outside for lunch. The Mountaineers will be encouraged to take advantage of that time outside, Dr. Watts said.
However, students who would rather eat lunch in the cafeteria will be able to do so. The school added a third-lunch to the school scheduled to reduce the number of students eating lunch at the same time.
“That will help us spread students out,” he said.
Watts also said students at Mount Jordan and other schools will see painted lines on floors guiding students where to walk in the hallways to avoid crowding. In the main hall of Mount Jordan Middle, there will be cones and ropes to mitigate congregation as well.
“There will be no lockers in the main hallway to start out,” Watts said. “There will be lots of visual reminders for students [to physical distance].”
Schools will also feature posters with warm, informational and empowering messages about face coverings, hand washing, physical distancing, and other steps students and teachers can take to safeguard communities.
Several other administrators, for instance, are also spreading out cafeteria tables and ordering extra banquet tables to ensure students remain physically distant at lunch.
Lunch times will also be spaced out so that cleaning crews will have extra time to disinfect lunch areas. Svee-Magann said the cafeteria as well as the gymnasium will be used for lunch to support appropriate physical distancing.
At recess, schools will limit the amount of students on play structures at a time, and recess times will be spaced out further. In fact, each school has designed lunch, recess and other operational plans to discourage congregation of students.
At Alta High School, construction projects moved ahead of schedule to create new spaces for many students to be able to sit outside for lunch while also maintaining physical distance.
Alta High Assistant Principal Kelli Miller said administrators at Alta have also removed non-essential furniture from classrooms to create more space for physical distancing.
“We have been very thoughtful about how we are going to direct students through hallways,” said Miller. “We are going to have personnel in the hallways during class transitions in order to ensure students are not congregating during transition periods.”
While the challenges of the 2020-2021 school year are certainly unique, school administrators at high, middle and elementary school levels are working hard to create safe, welcoming, and prepared learning and working environments for students and teachers.
“I’m comfortable in coming back with these measures in place – requirements of masks, and physical distancing. Our teachers are vigilant and we have good kids,” said Watts. “I’m confident we can do this and make the best of it. And, personally, I’m just excited to see kids again.”
For more information on the health and safety measures being put in place in accordance with guidance from local health officials, see CSD’ Frequently Asked Questions on re-opening schools.