Hunkering down in the office gets Chemainus Elementary School principal Fergus Horsburgh back into the mode for school opening preparations. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Hunkering down in the office gets Chemainus Elementary School principal Fergus Horsburgh back into the mode for school opening preparations. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Back to school comes with mask mandate

COVID precautions continue with some refinements to keep everyone safe

A mask mandate for Grades 4-12 is on the books from provincial health authorities, as Chemainus and Crofton elementary and secondary students prepare for the return to school next week.

Chemainus Elementary School Grade 6 student Tate Marston and Grade 4 students Sofie Marston and Greyson Miller are among those diligently preparing for the return to class, with mixed feelings about the end of their summer freedom and having to wear masks.

“I don’t really like it that much,” said Tate Marston. “You don’t have to keep them on outside, that’s good.”

“I guess it’s OK,” offered sister Sofie. “It’s hard to wear it outside.”

“I don’t like masks,” added Miller.

The three all say they had a great summer despite some of the restrictions from COVID-19 that affect everyday life.

Tate Marston said he enjoyed “a lot of sleepovers at our family members. We went on quite a bit of vacations and I got to hang out with some of my best friends.”

Miller said he went to the family cabin on Quadra Island and did a lot of things, “pretty much the whole time except a week.”

The time off from school went by fast, he said. “Last year it felt like it was a lot longer.”

Sofie Marston had her birthday on June 27 and it set the stage for lots of summer fun.

“We went to Galiano and the Shuswap,” she said. “We did lots of swimming.

“I got a hedgehog for my birthday. It’s a good pet, not that cuddly, though.”

Fergus Horsburgh has been getting ready to implement some of the necessary changes before his second year as Chemainus Elementary School principal.

“All provincial guidelines, we’re following them,” he said.

“We no longer have two-class cohorts. And we’re not going to have separate lunch hours.”

Enrollment at the school is down slightly this year to around 300 students.

“We’re looking at 13 or 14 divisions, somewhere around there,” Horsburgh noted.

Parents were not previously allowed on the school grounds, he added, but they will be now by following the necessary protocols – especially pertaining to admittance into the school.

“We no longer restrict them to outside the fence,” Horsburgh pointed out.

He’s confident the students will handle the mask requirements well.

“Kids are incredibly resilient,” Horsburgh said. “They adapt quickly. They do what’s right.”

The principal is excited about the construction of the outdoor classroom and a new daycare portable at the school. The outdoor space should be finished within the next week or two.

“One of our school goals this year is around outdoor learning,” Horsburgh emphasized. “It can also be available for the community after school and on weekends.”

The Board of Education for the Cowichan Valley School District is excited to welcome students and staff back into schools after the summer break for the 2021-22 school year on Sept. 7.

”The beginning of each school year brings such energy and excitement and we look forward to seeing that again throughout our district,” noted Candace Spilsbury, Cowichan Valley School District Board of Education chair.

“This year, like the last two, will see us having to deal with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, and like years past, we will be working hard to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our schools and workplaces. We know that the best way to ensure everyone’s health and safety, and to protect ourselves and those we care about, is to get vaccinated. Although vaccine rates are high in many areas in our district, more can always be done, and the board encourages anyone who is 12-years-old or older to get vaccinated.

“In addition to vaccinations, the provincial government has issued new school health and safety guidelines that mandate the wearing of masks for all Grade 4 through Grade 12 students and all staff while indoors. The guidelines also encourage the wearing of masks in Kindergarten to Grade 3. Like last year, we want to encourage a culture of mask wearing amongst even our youngest students and we hope that families can help in that endeavour. In addition to masking, the board will continue with enhanced cleaning measures throughout the district. When we combine vaccinations, masking and enhanced cleaning with the investments the board has made in upgraded ventilation, we are confident our schools will remain safe places to be.”

Spilsbury added support from families and the larger community will help ensure schools stay safe. “A very important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our schools is to ensure that the Daily Health Check is done, and that students, staff, or visitors do not come to school if they are showing any signs of illness.“

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In lieu of rolling out the welcome mat, Chemainus Elementary School principal Fergus Horsburgh calls attention to the new rainbow crosswalk outside the school. Colourful crosswalks have also been added to other schools in the district, including Crofton Elementary. (Photo by Don Bodger)

In lieu of rolling out the welcome mat, Chemainus Elementary School principal Fergus Horsburgh calls attention to the new rainbow crosswalk outside the school. Colourful crosswalks have also been added to other schools in the district, including Crofton Elementary. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Tate Marston, Greyson Miller and Sofie Marston have their masks on and books ready for the start of school at Chemainus Elementary. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Tate Marston, Greyson Miller and Sofie Marston have their masks on and books ready for the start of school at Chemainus Elementary. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Sofie Marston, Greyson Miller and Tate Marston climb aboard the Chemainus Fire Department fire engine in the Chemainus Elementary School playground before heading back into class. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Sofie Marston, Greyson Miller and Tate Marston climb aboard the Chemainus Fire Department fire engine in the Chemainus Elementary School playground before heading back into class. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Greyson Miller, Sofie Marston and Tate Marston are all equipped for the return to school at Chemainus Elementary next week. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Greyson Miller, Sofie Marston and Tate Marston are all equipped for the return to school at Chemainus Elementary next week. (Photo by Don Bodger)