VICTORIA—Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks to educators and support staff about physical distancing in schools in a video released yesterday.
The PHO recognizes that schools will require flexibility when it comes to providing school care and learning opportunities. This means that there can be more than 50 students and staff in a school at any given time if they are not all in one area at the same time and are actively engaged in physical distancing to the extent possible. Understandably, physical distancing is challenging in a K-12 educational setting, particularly with younger children. At the same time, it is important that we do what we can to try to assist children and staff understand the importance of minimizing the frequency of physical contact with one another.
The following ideas on physical distancing in schools are provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control:
- Avoiding close greetings like hugs or handshakes and remind children to keep their hands to themselves when possible.
- Help younger children learn about physical distancing by creating games. For example, put on some music and have children spread their arms side to side and spin around slowly trying not to touch their friends. Older children can be provided age appropriate reading material and encouraged to self-regulate.
- Take children outside more often, perhaps breaking children into smaller groups to maintain a degree of distance.
- Organize learning activities outside including snack time, play based learning, and play time.
- Integrate cross-curricular learning activities in outdoor settings into your lesson plans and encourage younger children in play outside.
- Regularly clean and sanitize items that are designed to be shared such as manipulatives and digital devices.
- Set up mini environments within the school to reduce number of children in a group, i.e., set up 2 or 3 learning areas for numeracy and literacy activities.
- Consider different classroom configurations to maintain distance between children (e.g. separating desks) or different locations in the school (e.g. different classrooms, gym or library, outside).
- Increase the space between children and staff during activities such as snack/lunch, i.e., move or separate tables, move chairs farther apart.
- When children want to use the same activity or redirect some children to another area.
- Set up distinct areas for children who may have symptoms of illness until they can be picked up and ensure these areas are sanitized regularly.
- Consider staggering snack and lunch time so you can accommodate smaller groups with more space. Discourage any food or drink sharing.
- Consider using educational videos and online programs as a part of learning so children can sit independently and distanced from each other.