The two key messages in the Houston Christian School’s safety plan are to ‘Be Clean’ and ‘Give Space’. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)

Houston Christian School rings in the school restart with the theme of ‘Hope’

Except a handful few, most students back in class

The Houston Christian School (HCS) is back to in-class instruction like the other schools in the province, and is making ‘Hope’ as the school theme of the year.

“Every year we pick a school theme and this year our school theme is Hope because we see this chance to restart classroom instruction filled with hope for the future,” said Marshall Duzan, an administrator and teacher with the school. Each year, the school develops a theme based on the Christian worldview, and the bible.

The school is also ensuring all the various safety planning and measures are in place.

“We developed a safety plan which was distributed to our families and our school community and in that safety plan, it is quite an extensive document,” said Duzan adding that some of the key measures include dividing students in learning cohorts, maintaining social distancing and wearing of masks when approaching groups from a different cohort.

“When kids come into our building and leave the building, when they change activities, for the gym they will hand sanitize so just lots of that happening. Of course, we are not unique, every school is doing very similar things, but within our safety plan we also have procedures and protocols for all the different situations that might arise,” he said.

The school’s safety plan also indicates that while some of the measures are extreme for the pandemic, several key measures around cleanliness would be included and made part of the routine for the students. The safety document specifically says that “many of the measures outlined below, would apply for reducing transmission of any communicable disease in a K-12 school context. Some of these measures will, at first, require focus and attention but will, in time and with practice, fade to the background as routine.”

“The two themes in our safety plan is ‘Be Clean’ and ‘Give Space’. We see those short phrases as being really summarizing in our safety plan,” said Duzan.

Some of the protocols the school will be following are, screening and health checks for visitors, HCS office to keep a list of all visitors, closed campus policy to be enforced with students not being permitted to leave campus during the school day, discouraging students from sharing school supplies and material and even food sharing would not be permitted. The school is also encouraging students to bring their own water bottles instead of using the water fountains.

At the moment, while the school has PE activities planned, no other inter-school events and tournaments would be taking place. According to Duzan, these would only take place based on BC School Sports and Provincial Health Office recommendations.

Duzan, who teaches High School, and will be teaching Math for Grade 9 and pre-calculus for Grade 11, is extremely excited about going back to school.

“It feels like regular school and I am so thankful for that because that kind of stability and normalcy helps students, even when I visit another classroom in elementary grade, there are students at their desks working and doing things like they usually would and that’s really exciting to see for those of us who are educators,” he said.

Duzan also said that while “practically all” the students are back, there are some who are being supported with home-stay learning. These are a few families who have been asked by the health authorities to stay at home for health reasons and the school is now in the process of working to help transition those few families back to school according to him.

Earlier this year, the schools in the province had to opt for virtual learning which made things very challenging for students, parents as well as educators.

“When we went to online learning and teaching, it was a big switch for us, you know when you think about a teacher, we train and go to university to learn how to be a classroom teacher, so we had to develop a bit of a whole new skill set all of a sudden,” he said. “So now that we are back in class, we are very happy to have students back – it is just so nice to be with the students and have them in class.”

The school had distributed laptops and iPad to students which have now been returned to the school. The school is however in the process of updating the devices to be redistributed again and has even bought a few new devices. Duzan also said that while the school staff and the educators were happy about the in-class instruction, the school has provisions in place if they have to suddenly go back to the online learning format.

For Duzan, the school theme is especially important because of all the uncertainties that the year has brought.

“In the bible it talks clearly about the hope that we have as God’s children and sometimes that hope can seem to disappear in difficult times like a pandemic but we feel that hope is a good word for school this year. And we will integrate that with some of our coursework, into our devotion and homeroom and also in communication that we send home to families and focus on that theme of hope,” he said.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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