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Stoney Nakoda gets ready to return to school

Nakoda Elementary students will be returning to the classroom on Sept. 21 under the provincial scenario two re-entry plan
Dancers perform during the Nakoda Elementary School powwow in Morley in 2018. Under the new guidelines outlined by the Stoney Education Authority, there will be no gatherings for the 2020-21 school year. RMO FILE PHOTO

STONEY NAKODA – Nakoda Elementary School students will be returning to the classroom on Sept. 21.

During a live Q-and-A Monday (Aug. 31), Stoney Education Authority officials outlined the 2020-21 return to school plan, which they said would look different in comparison to previous years.

“It is going to look a lot different this year,” Aimee Dixon, Nakoda Elementary vice-principal said at the Morley Community School gymnasium.

Some of the changes include no more field trips, no inter-school sports, no gatherings, no outside groups brought in and the introduction of cohort classrooms. The classrooms will be broken up into two cohorts where cohort one and cohort two will alternate each day, with homework provided for the days the students are at home.

“We do know that parents are worried, they are pretty much worried everywhere,” Superintendent Bill Shade said, assuring parents SEA officials are doing everything they can to create a safe space for students.

Earlier this year, the three-band Nation announced it would be going with scenario two for the return to school as outlined by the province. In July, Alberta Education officials announced provincial schools would have full-time classes resume with health measures under scenario one, but as the reserve is federally funded and self-managed, the Nation made the decision to opt for scenario two, with part-time in school classes with reduced class sizes.

“We do know a number of parents will be keeping their kids home, so we have all those options available here,” NES principal Walter Desjarlais said. 

Parents are asked to register their children by Sept. 15. If a family chooses to keep their children at home, NES will prepare learning packages.

In the meantime for the students who will be returning to class, officials went over the new back-to-school plan, which includes the use of sanitizer, thermometers and masks.

Some keynotes from the announcement include:

  • Transportation will still be available through Nakoda bus lines, but masks are mandatory and temperatures will be taken before boarding the bus.
  • Students will still be provided with pre-packaged breakfast and lunch. Families can make homemade food, but it must be sent with the student. No outside food can be delivered or dropped off at the school. 
  • Any student showing any cold or flu like symptoms is asked to stay home and isolate. The student can opt to take a COVID-19 test, but if the results are negative and they are still showing cold or flu symptoms, they are still asked to stay home for 14 days.

Officials also said there will be nine custodians – five during the day and four in the evening, while also exploring the option to hold four-day school weeks for a weekly Friday deep-clean.

The livestream comes the same day it was revealed the province's chief medical officer of health removed social distancing guidelines in schools in a public health order signed on Aug. 29.

“An operator of a school does not need to ensure that students, staff members and visitors are able to maintain a minimum of two metres distances from every other person when a student, staff member or visitor is seated at desk or table,” the order reads.

Nation officials said they know the provincial guidelines are constantly changing, but the Stoney Education authority wants to remain cautious.

“Because we are a little bit more independent, we are still going to maintain social distancing … [and] we opted for scenario two because we wanted to be more cautious,” Shade said.

Visit for more information on the Nakoda Elementary School re-entry plan.

Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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