SMPC Return to school FAQ

Last update – 9:50pm, 25.08.20 (changes to: scooting & cycling to school, clubs, what to do if you child has Covid-19 symptoms and driving to school)

South Morningside Parent Council has worked with the school to try to answer some of the questions parents and carers are asking most often about the return to school. We’ve made every effort to make sure the answers are clear, concise and accurate but thoughts on how they could be improved, particularly as circumstances change, are always welcome. We will try to update the FAQ as often as we can but of course we’re also working and caring for our own kids, as well as trying to do our bit as volunteers on the Parent Council.

STAYING SAFE AND WELL

How at risk are children from coronavirus and how likely are they to spread it?
There is some evidence that primary aged children may be less likely to catch the virus and it is certainly true that fewer than 1% of all confirmed coronavirus cases in Scotland have been amongst children under 15. Part of the reason for these very low numbers though is that children with coronavirus almost always have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, so they are much less likely to be tested. Even though over 2,000 people have sadly died of the virus in Scotland, there have been no deaths amongst those under 20. There is some evidence that children have a limited role in transmitting the virus – but the evidence is still developing.

What precautions will the school take to keep children safe?
The school has undertaken a series of detailed risk assessments developed by Edinburgh council and the Scottish Government, and will continue to monitor changes affecting these risk assessments. This process is part of the government guidance on reopening schools in a way that will keep pupils and staff safe. The school has been thoroughly cleaned and will be cleaned more often than uusual after it reopens. Everyone will be washing their hands much more regularly. Children will initially stay within their class groups. Classrooms will be well ventilated and pupils will have more time for outdoor learning.

What if my child or someone in our household develops Covid-19 symptoms?
If anyone in your household displays any of the recognised symptoms you should immediately self isolate and seek medical advice.  The symptoms are:

  • new, continuous cough
  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste

What happens if my family have to be tested for Covid-19?
If a test is recommended for your child but comes back negative, your child can return to school once they have had no fever for 48 hours and are feeling better. Siblings can return to school immediately once a negative result is received. The return to school only applies, of course, if everyone else in the household who has had symptoms has been tested and found negative. Please show the teacher your child’s negative test result. This helps monitor cases and keeps the school community safe and reassured.  If you or your children have a positive test result, please inform the school as well as working with the relevant public health and medical authorities.  As always, if your child has any vomiting or diarrhoea they must remain at home for 48 hours after all symptoms have cleared before returning to school.

Will staff or children be expected to wear masks?
Children and staff will not be expected to wear masks but can choose to do so. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will only be used where there is close contact between adults or between adults and children for more than 15 minutes. School staff may need to be near children to provide intimate care or where coronavirus is suspected and pupils require supervision while they are in isolation, awaiting collection by parents or carers.

Will children be required to physically distance from each other?
In line with advice from the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, children will not be required to physically distance from their classmates but staff will stay 2m away from children and each other wherever possible. Particular care must be taken by parents and carers around school drop offs and pick-ups, where physical distancing between adults, and between adults and children from different families, must be observed. You can help create more space around schools by avoiding taking children to and from school by car wherever possible. If you must drive, please do not park anywhere near the school gates. Please follow the specific advice you have received regarding dropping off and collecting your children to minimise mixing between households, with the exception of mixing between children in the same class. Parents should not enter the school grounds unless they have been specifically asked to do so in the written instructions they have received from the school. Visits to the school will be by invitation only and you should contact the school by email or phone in the first instance.

Will children be in a ‘bubble’ with a limited number of children and staff?
Children will stay mostly in their class groups ‘bubbles’ and will be taught and supervised by the same small group of staff to minimise the risk of infection. This approach will also ensure any infections that do occur can be contained with a minimum of disruption to other pupils and their families. Passing other children briefly, even indoors such as in a corridor, is considered low risk based on scientific advice.

Must all children return to school?
All children should return to school, including those who have been shielding. If your child cannot return for any reason you should contact the school.

What extra cleaning arrangements will be in place at the school?
Normal daily cleaning will take place as well as increased disinfection of common touch points. Plans are being discussed to introduce an ongoing programme of electrostatic disinfection which is sometimes known as spraying, misting or fogging. The intention is for this to be undertaken each month to ensure the school environment remains virus free.

Will there be more outdoor play and learning to reduce the risk of transmission?
There will be a significant increase in the use of outdoor space in all but the very worst of weather. Care will be taken to limit the number of children in the same outdoor space from different classes, for example by staggering access to the playground, particularly at lunch and play times. The school will also be using local outdoor spaces which have been risk assessed.

What extra personal hygiene measures will be in place?
There will be regular handwashing by staff and pupils, and hand sanitisers will be widely available throughout the school. Pupils and staff will be required to wash their hands and/or use sanitiser on entering each classroom or shared space.

Should I wash all my child’s clothes every day after school?
Scottish Government advice is that this is not necessary and parents can continue to with their normal laundry arrangements. The school has suggested children come to school in ‘play clothes’ for the youngest children at Nursery and Deanbank, and joggers or shorts that can be easily washed for the upper stages.

What will the arrangements be for children and families that are shielding?
With the Scottish Government pausing the arrangements for everyone who has been shielding, any pupils who have been shielding or whose families have been shielding, will be able to return to school. Parents from shielding families should contact the school to discuss any additional steps that may be required to ensure their child returns to school safely. Normal arrangements for Health Care Plans are in place.

What happens if a child or staff member develops COVID-19 symptoms while at school?
Please let your children know that if they begin to feel unwell while at school they should inform a member of staff immediately. A space has been identified within the school where anyone developing symptoms can isolate until they can leave safely. The key initial step when coronavirus is suspected is the self-isolation and rapid testing of all symptomatic children and staff. The school will then arrange for the appropriate level of additional cleaning, in line with Health Protection Scotland guidance. The contact tracing service will identify the close contacts of anyone testing positive and advise them and their households to self-isolate while they are tested. Other children, their families and staff members at the school will not be required to self-isolate. If the school has two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 14 days, or an increase in background rate of absence due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, they may have an outbreak. In this situation the school will work closely with the local health protection team and local authority to take the necessary steps and decisions to keep everyone safe. A detailed risk assessment for infection control has been conducted and shared with all staff.

Will the impact of reopening schools on the prevalence of coronavirus be monitored?
In addition to Test and Protect – Scotland’s test, trace, isolate, support strategy – a surveillance programme is being developed for schools, where regular testing and survey data will identify symptoms and infections in the school population. This will allow regular reporting on incidences of infection and inform the ongoing development of guidance for schools.

Mental health and wellbeing
Scottish Government advice is that the wellbeing of all children, young people and staff should be the central focus when preparing for the reopening of schools at a local level. Edinburgh’s mental health and wellbeing resources are sector leading, there will be a briefing to senior education leaders and headteachers on the support available before schools return. There will be strong emphasis during the early weeks of the return to school on wellbeing because until all children feel safe and happy, effective learning cannot take place.

Can children cycle or scoot to school?
Children are encouraged to cycle or scoot to school and can now leave their bikes and scooters in the playground during the day.  Bikes and scooters should be walked through the playgrounds to to be parked.  Children should observe social distancing when parking, so please remind them they should wait if the stands are busy to avoid crowding.

LOGISTICAL ARRANGEMENTS

Why aren’t children allowed to bring bags, pencil cases, books and other items from home?
To create space for physical distancing and to make regular cleaning easier, classrooms need to be kept as clutter free as possible. These measures are initially for the first few weeks and will then be reviewed. Each class teacher will discuss with their class how personal items will be managed. Due to the curriculum we are following over the first few days especially, there is little need for any equipment to be brought to school initially.  During the first few days back, full water bottles can be carried to school and used in the classroom.

Isn’t there a risk of bottlenecks at school gates?
There is a risk of bottlenecks around the school gates and we would ask parents to follow the year, house and site specific guidelines that the school has sent to all families. If you are dropping your children at the school gates then please do not loiter and in particular do not stop to talk with adults or children from other households. Think about whether older children are ready to get to and from school unaccompanied, or if you could drop them and collect them at an agreed point near the school rather than at the gates.

Can I drop my children to school by car?

You can help create more space around the school by avoiding taking children to and from school by car wherever possible. If you must drive, please do not park anywhere near the school gates. The school has emphasised again that no parent or carer should ever stop illegally on the double yellow lines and zig zags around the school to drop their children off. This is selfish and grossly irresponsible as it creates road safety dangers that put all children and parents at risk. The Parent Council has supported a proposal by the council’s Spaces for People programme to close Canaan Lane to motor traffic and this change is likely to take effect very soon.

Would there not be more room for distancing if parents could drop off to the playground?
Although there is more space inside the school grounds, Edinburgh council has decided that allowing more parents and carers into these spaces would greatly increase the risk of prolonged face to face mixing between households.

What are the arrangements for dropping off and collecting children from school?
These vary by site, by school year and by house – please refer to the email you have received from school. If you are dropping children at the school gate please do not stop at the gate, particularly to talk to other adults. Please do not park at the school gate when dropping off but on nearby streets and walk the remaining distance

In the original letter from the school it says pupils will ‘Attend full day’ on Friday – what exactly does this mean?
On Fridays all children at Comiston Road and Deanbank will attend school in the morning only.  They should be dropped off at the times set out in the subsequent email sent to all parents/carers.  Collection times are staggered to enable one parent or carer to collect children from both sites.

Is there a timeline for future changes including drop offs/pick up?
Arrangements will be reviewed after the first full week back at school but any changes will involve decisions by both Scottish Government and Edinburgh council. At present, changes to the staggered drop off and collection process seem more likely than a decision to allow parents back into school playgrounds.

What should my children wear to school?
Please send your children to school in clothes suitable for outdoor play but wearing school shoes and a school sweatshirt. Children should also bring in a plastic bag on the first day with footwear suitable for outdoor play such as walking shoes/boots or wellingtons and a pair of gym plimsolls or shoes.

How can we bring in gym and outdoors shoes without a school bag?
Please bring them in a plastic bag for now. 

Do children need to bring in their PE kit?
This is not necessary as the guidelines around clothing and footwear will ensure children are dressed appropriately for indoor and outdoor activities. All PE lessons for the foreseeable future will take place outdoors.

What if I need to come into the school?
Please contact the school office who will try to deal with things remotely if possible but will arrange an in person appointment if necessary. The school office is not open for visitors or receiving any items during the school day.

How can parents whose children require medication arrange for this to reach the school along with any paperwork that is still required?
Please send your child in to school with all their medication in a sealed bag. Mrs Hughes and Mrs Kuryluk will check all bags and medication and either call or send home to parent’s appropriate health care forms. It is important that all back up medication is held in school as soon as possible, in order to enable outdoor learning to commence. If you require a new Health Plan please inform the school via email and or phone call.

What arrangements will be made for children who need a laptop for written work or other equipment to support their additional needs? Should this be brought from home or supplied by school?
The school will ensure that children with additional needs continue to receive the support they require, including any additional equipment they need. Digital equipment distributed during lockdown will be recalled for in school use.

Will children who receive additional support from specialist staff at the school continue to receive this support?
The school will prioritise ensuring that children with additional needs continue to receive the support they require, subject to necessary measures to limit the risk of spreading the virus. Initially the focus will be on health and wellbeing and appropriate measures to address learning needs will be communicated with parents once diagnostic and formative assessments have had suitable time to be carried out.

When will parents be informed about arrangements regarding the reopening of the nursery?
The Deanbank and Comiston Road school sites were only opened to staff on Monday 10 August. As yet the necessary arrangements, risk assessments and cleaning has not taken part at Fairmile Church Halls. Parents have been advised when their child and new starts will be re-enrolled into the Nursery Classes. There is no Nursery in the week beginning 10 August but it is hoped that staff will gain access to the site by Wednesday 12 August to begin preparations for reopening.

Why was the final decision that children would not require a full school uniform communicated long after most parents had already purchased new uniforms?
Children can wear school uniform if they wish but the school have advised that a large part of each day will be spent outdoors and traditional uniform will be less suitable for some of the planned activities. Up until the final days of last term, there was no expectation that the school would return fully in August. Following subsequent guidance from Scottish Government, including the decision on 30 July that schools would return full time, the school has had to adapt how it plans to deliver the curriculum, greatly increasing the use of outdoor learning, and issuing advice on the most suitable clothing for children to wear.

The letter to parents refers to ‘wet weather’ lunch arrangements – what does this involve?
Wet weather arrangements is what the children refer to, and understand, as a day when the playground is not in use. As part of these measures children will eat a packed lunch and have some scheduled time outside in the playground in a designated area. This will allow the supervision of children both within and outside the school by pupil support staff yet maintaining class and year group bubbles.

Should I send my child with a packed lunch or can lunches be ordered?
If you have ordered a lunch for this week your child will receive a packed lunch to their class, all other children should bring a packed lunch to school.  Lunch orders are now open to book but as always this must be done well in advance.  For the moment all school lunches will be packed lunches.

Should I send my child in with a water bottle?
Please send your child in with a full water bottle, this is particularly important at Comiston Road where the water in our classrooms is not drinking water from the mains.  At Comiston Road, jugs of drinking water will be available if a child forgets their water bottle.

Might blended or remote learning be needed if coronavirus cases start to rise in the community or if there is an outbreak at school?
The return to school has been arranged in such a way as to minimise the risk of the virus spreading within the school. This will help minimise the risk of an outbreak that would require the school to close again. Contingency plans are in place to introduce blended learning or even full remote learning if the prevalence of the virus within the school or the wider community requires it.  The parent council is continuing to look at ways it can help support families without adequate devices or internet access in the event that a return to home or blended learning is required.

ACADEMIC & EXTRACURRICULAR ISSUES

What are the learning priorities in the first days and weeks back at school?
The first priority will be to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all the children, as well as staff and the wider school community. There will be far more outdoor play and learning than usual, both to support children’s wellbeing and also to help manage the risk of infection. The wellbeing of our children is important not only in its own right but also an essential prerequisite to any effective academic work taking place. There will be a series of mostly informal assessments to understand what children have retained, what they have learnt at home and where any gaps may have opened up. All these assessments will be conducted in a way that minimises stress for children, including those who may have struggled with home learning. When more formal teaching resumes, there will be an emphasis on literacy and numeracy in the first instance.

How will the school make sure children who have fallen behind are identified and supported?
Following lockdown, children may have developed gaps in their development in wellbeing, literacy and numeracy. Teachers will look to establish a baseline of where individual learners are and will work with the information shared by the pupil’s previous teacher. The school will be putting in place interventions to provide suitable challenge and support, as required, across extended bubbles or year groups.

When will clubs restart?
There are no dates set yet for the restarting of Active Schools activities or for recommencing the council letting processes that allow parent council clubs to use the school premises out of hours.  It is very unlikely there will be any movement in these areas before the October half term. The parent council and our excellent clubs team are working hard to identify processes that would allow interested clubs to restart online where possible, including following an appropriate online children protection policy.  Work is also underway to look at the strict requirements and procedures that would need to be in place before any interested club could safely restart in-person activities off-site.

NEW SCHOOL AND THE DEANBANK SITE

What is happening with the council’s proposal to shut Canaan lane to motor traffic?
Under its spaces for people programme, the Council has proposed to close Canaan Lane to all traffic except for residents. The South Morningside Parent Council has supported this proposal and also asked the council to consider whether pavements on Comiston Road around the school could be widened on a temporary basis. The deadline for comments on the spaces for people proposals was 12 August and it is likely to be several weeks before the proposed changes are finalised and implemented.

Will the building works for the new school at the Deanbank site be completed on time?
The council are still hopeful the building of the new school will be complete for August 2021 and are awaiting final details of the revised schedule from the contractor. Refurbishment of the existing Deanbank building will not however be completed by August 2021 so this will require management within the affected school communities.

Suggestions for additions, updates or corrections to the FAQ?

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