Thinking outside the box has become essential during this unique school year. Over the summer, educators in Pembina Trails School Division invested countless hours planning and preparing to safely welcome students back.
What started out as spur of the moment idea, quickly evolved into a creative solution for tracing student movement at Fort Richmond Collegiate. Teacher-librarian, Chantal Rochon, was inspired to use QR codes after visiting a few local restaurants.
“I noticed various restaurants using the technology to access menus, and I thought this could work at schools. Kids are constantly using phones and when I get an idea I run with it,” said Rochon.
With the support of her leadership team, including tech savvy vice-principal Jon Manness, the QR code system was up and running in time for the first week of school. Students quickly embraced the idea of using smartphones to scan codes at the library, cafeteria and even the weight room. The information is then stored in a spreadsheet, ready to use if ever there was a positive case of COVID-19 at the school. Staff are also able to scan students in, if they do not have access to a smartphone.
“It gives students choice, so that they can sit where they want, as students don’t have as much freedom as they used to and yet it allows us to keep everyone safe,” said Janet Gray, principal, Fort Richmond Collegiate.
The method quickly gained traction across Pembina Trails, as other high schools adopted the idea. In October, the QR code system was tested when Oak Park High School had a positive case. Public health staff praised the school for having one of the best systems, they have seen, in place for contact tracing.
“We can very quickly, within a half an hour do a full contact trace using these forms and find out who was in the building during the times they were not in classes,” said Troy Scott, principal, Oak Park High School.
Principal Troy Scott credits his students for embracing the task and technology.
“They have shown us an unbelievable maturity; they are taking it very seriously. They will QR code when they go in and register that they are in the cafeteria and then do it again when they leave.”
The innovative concept has made both local and national headlines. Officials with the City of Winnipeg have also reached out to Fort Richmond staff to learn more about the technology.