Band and choir programs will restart in all of the Southeast Cornerstone Public School Division on February 1. Band programming was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, and restrictions provided in Re-open Saskatchewan had made it impossible for the school division to offer a traditional band program.
Updates from the province and Public Health have allowed Southeast Cornerstone to proceed in a risk-reduced manner. “February 1 coincides with the start of semester two for our high schools and report period 3 for our elementary schools,” said Aaron Hiske, Superintendent of Education for Southeast Cornerstone.
“As you can imagine, timetabling for these courses, room setups and teacher assignments, all need to be in place to offer these programs. The extension of the restrictions may alter what the class may look like but we will proceed within the guidelines to reduce risk.”
Some schools in Southeast Cornerstone have already been offering some extra curricular choir and band programs, using a virtual format. “We have looked at programs like SMART music to help to deliver lessons virtually and some of our staff have invested in those programs,” said Hiske.
COVID-19 created many challenges for traditional delivery of education. Band and choir programming were no exception.
“Meeting the space requirements of minimum three metre spacing between masked participants and smaller group sizes have been the biggest challenges,” added Hiske. “Traditionally a 30-piece band or choir was on the small side, but under the current restrictions that is the largest number we can have participate at a time. Originally the guidelines of four metres, in combination with other restrictions, prohibited us from offering these programs.”
Additional restrictions include no mixing of cohorts, filters on instruments, absorbent pads for water key collection and masking when not playing.
Cornerstone staff continues to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“They are passionate about band and choir programming and are very excited again to be able to offer this to our students,” said Hiske.
There was no staff reduction during the band program pause. Instead, staff were reassigned within home buildings or added to sub lists for support. Budget allocations were protected and still remain accessible.