Principal Tom Aerts of Oak Bay High. Aerts is new to the school this year, an added challenge in preparing the strict regime for high school during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Principal Tom Aerts of Oak Bay High. Aerts is new to the school this year, an added challenge in preparing the strict regime for high school during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

New principal leads COVID-19 school year at Oak Bay High

Small cohorts, masks and sanitizer mark start of school

When Oak Bay High students arrive this week it will be a different experience.

Expect masks, directional arrows, designated doors and a lot of handwashing and sanitizing, said new Oak Bay High principal Tom Aerts, who comes over from Reynolds secondary following the retirement of Randi Falls.

Among the changes at Oak Bay High is a switch to a quarterly semester system, which all high schools are doing. It’s part of a rigorous health and safety regime that students and staff will experience starting Sept. 10. The Greater Victoria School District guidelines dictate a daily cleaning of class areas. Frequently-touched surfaces such as door knobs and light switches, will be cleaned twice or more every 24 hours.

Aerts arrives after seven years as principal of Reynolds, six years as principal at Cedar Hill middle school, and stints as vice principal at Vic High and Arbutus middle school before that.

He will oversee Oak Bay High’s transition from being one of the last high schools to use the linear system in B.C., where students attended up to five classes a day, and studied all eight courses throughout the year.

“In the quarter system there are two classes per quarter, so it minimizes the exposure students will face while at school,” Aerts said.

Students could have a cohort of up to 24 in a traditional class like English.

READ ALSO: Retiring in style, Oak Bay High celebrates with big sendoff

Students will follow strict routines. They’ll start in small groups with transition workshops on Sept. 10 and 11. Teachers will use the two-day delay to report for training sessions on the new system Sept. 8 and 9.

If students do end up missing more classes than normal, it could add stress to the student’s workload and for teachers trying to keep students on track. For now, missed classes are something the school will wait-and-see before adjusting, Aerts said.

Each student will have a designated entrance and exit, depending on what group they are in. All students will use hand sanitizer upon entering the building and, Oak Bay High is “lucky” to have sinks in most classrooms so students can be expected to wash their hands upon entering and exiting, Aerts noted.

READ MORE: Oak Bay Grade 8 students end time at Monterey with drive-through goodbyes

“It is mandatory that students and staff self-check their health every day before coming to school, he said. Masks are to be worn at all times on campus until the students and teachers are in the classroom with their cohort. “There will be directional arrows on the floors much like any [grocery store] and a limit to how many people can be in a washroom.”

The benefit of the quarterly system is that in-class instruction is about 70 per cent of what it was in the linear system, Aerts said.

“There will be art, band, choir and dance, but unfortunately there won’t be any sports yet,” Aerts said.

The hope is that this year’s graduating class will be afforded traditional ceremonies as opposed to the non-traditional options schools and grad classes drummed up in June. It meant virtual grads, drive-through ceremonies, auto parades, and other variations.

“I feel sorry for the [2020] Grade 12s who didn’t get that normal graduation experience,” Aerts said. “Students were really understanding of the situation and they understood the big picture, and rose to the occasion.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

oak bay high

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

Look for the Random Act of Kindness Day colouring contest in Black Press issues Jan. 17. Physical entries can be mailed or dropped off to local Black Press offices. A scanned or photographed entry can be emailed to info@victoriafoundation.bc.ca. Winning entries can get a $50 gift card to Bolen Books and a $100 donation to a charity of their choice from the VIctoria Foundation. (Pixabay)
Colouring contest coming for Kindness Day

Kindness Day colouring contest in partnership with Victoria Foundation

Sidney has moved the remaining parts of its public consultation phase part of the Official Community Plan online. (Black Press Media File)
Sidney moves to an ‘all online engagement’ process for OCP

Staff says OCP charrette scheduled for mid-February

(File photo)
‘Very lucky’: Two passengers, dog escape rollover crash in Saanich unscathed

Vehicle flips on Trans Canada Highway after hitting median, possibly due to ice, firefighter says

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Most Read