Fewer subjects a result of pandemic safety measures at Ahtahkakoop school
- NC Raine | September 29, 2020
Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation High School sits snugly near the centre of its first nation, just across the road from Hines Lake, and has remained a gathering point for youth during the summer months.
Principal Shaun Sasakamoose is privy to some of the conversations of the youth hanging around the schoolyard.
“The kids have been asking me when they can come back. They’re excited to get back to school,” he said.
As such, Sasakamoose and Ahtahkakoop have been doing everything in their power to make this school year a safe experience for their eager students. For the first month of classes, students will be divided into two groups, with group one attending school on Monday-Tuesday, and group two attending Thursday-Friday, with Wednesday being set aside for disinfecting the school.
The school is also making masks mandatory for everyone in the building, and is taking the temperature of every person who enters the bus or school. A temperature over 38 degrees means a 14-day self quarantine or a clean bill of health from a doctor following a Covid-19 test, said Sasakamoose.
“We’re taking safety here very seriously,” said Sasakamoose. “The kids’ population is quite static; they don’t travel much. The game-changers are the staff, some of who are coming from Saskatoon or Prince Albert. That’s why we are so stringent on getting temperatures checked, wearing masks, getting Covid-checks.”
As for education, because of the reduced hours, Sasakamoose said the school will be concentrating on math, English Laguage Arts, and Cree as their core subjects, with health and science being put on hold.
“We want to put every measure in place. When you’re in the middle of the storm, you can’t see the end but it’s there. We’ll get out of this even stronger, and if this happens again, we’ll know what to do.”
Nakoda Oyade Education Centre at Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation is similarly taking a careful approach to the new school year.
Starting on the first day of classes, September 15, students will be divided into cohorts and remain in their classroom ‘bubble’, with teachers going to them rather than having students move around the school.
Everyone will be sporting protective gear, with staff and students grade 4 to 12 wearing masks, and students from kindergarten to grade three wearing either masks or face-shields. Bus drivers will be taking and logging the temperature of each student before they climb aboard, and the school itself will be restricted to only students and teachers.
Mental health is being made a priority.
“The biggest challenge is dealing with the impacts (of the pandemic). We are having conversations with everyone to make sure they feel emotionally supported. If we don’t create that emotional support for teachers, families, and students, we’re going to have some challenges,” said Robert Kowalchuk, director of education at Carry the Kettle.
Additionally, the school has invested in Vital Oxide, a fogging or misting cleaning agent often used in hospitals, the “gold standard”, says Kowalchuk, which the school will use in their busses and commonly touched areas.
“Because of the long history of trauma, and Indigenous people having elevated health risks, we’re trying to create the safest possible environment for our students to return,” said Kowalchuk.