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Back-to-school season in Kanesatake

Schools closed earlier in March while the pandemic was hitting worldwide and forcing everything to shut down. (COURTESY FACEBOOK RATIHÉN:TE HIGH SCHOOL)

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School ain’t out for the summer anymore.

Starting next Tuesday, September 8, online classes are resuming at the Ratihén:te high school and Rotiwennakéhte Ionterihwaienstáhkhwa primary school. As for the in-class lessons, students will be welcomed back on September 28.

The director of education of Kanesatake, Scott Traylen, explained that the decision was made after careful consultation with the staff, parents and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).

“We felt that it would give us enough time to prepare the schools and get all the safety equipment we need to do the deep cleaning and preparation,” said Traylen, who also serves as the high school principal.

He confirmed that safety measures have been implemented to make sure the virus doesn’t spread. When students go back to school at the end of September, they will face a good number of safety protocols, such as plexiglass surrounding desktops, teachers wearing masks and visors and various sanitizing stations all over the schools.

Traylen believes that one of the main mandatory measures, social distancing, is going to be less tricky to respect as both schools together have close to 100 students. The separation of classes was therefore not necessary while the two metre rule between the desks was installed.

As imposed by the Quebec government, masks will be mandatory for every student from grade five and above in all common areas such as the hallways and washrooms. But students will be able to remove them throughout the day once at their sitting place.

This measure reassures Al Harrington, whose children, Sage and Nation will be among the students attending school in a few weeks.

“I feel like the staff and principal have the best interest to keep our children safe through this,” said the 44-year-old father, “I support the fact that kids need to wear mask within a distance from each other, but I’m also very happy that they can take them off when they are in their little zone!”

Although, with the recent outbreaks due to schools reopening across the province, Traylen agreed that it’s indeed a huge concern for everybody.

On August 27, more than 20 high school teachers from Polyvalente Deux Montagnes, were sent back home. The decision came after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the first day of school.

“They all had the proper safeguards in place and ended up like this,” said Mohawk Council of Kanesatake grand chief Serge Otsi Simon, who hopes the community will remain confident and do everything possible to stop the spread. “But no matter what you do and how good your plan is, there is always something that can go wrong.”

Traylen said he’s not actually facing the biggest challenge of his career with COVID-19. He rather sees it as a challenging and learning experience.

“It’s going to be difficult because any plan that you put in place in order to be proactive is a dynamic document,” said the director. “It’s going to be changing, we are going to be reacting to situations every other day, and it’s something that is inevitable.”

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