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Back to School Connect returns, pandemic-style

Back to School Connect returns for an eighth year, with a new format to reflect the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Families in Fort Macleod and district will pick up prepared bundles of free school supplies Aug. 19-21 at the Fort Macleod Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) office.

“It will be much different than it has been in the past,” FCSS co-ordinator Angie O’Connor said. “Due to COVID-19 we’ve had to make some substantial changes, however we know kids will be going back to school in some way and learning should be a positive experience and exciting and celebrated.”

Back to School Connect is usually held at the Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre and includes free clothing and displays by community groups.

COVID-19, which reached Canada six months ago, forced FCSS to get creative, knowing families are facing financial challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“FCSS wants to help in whatever way we can with some of those challenges,” O’Connor said.

FCSS staff will put together bundles of school supplies according to four categories: Kindergarten, elementary, junior high and senior high.

“We’ll have those pre-made with some of the commonly used items,” O’Connor said.

W.A. Day and F.P. Walshe schools sent FCSS the supply list so items could be purchased.

The bundles will include such needed items as dry erase markers, pencils, pens and paper.

“It’s certainly not everything on people’s lists, but we’re hoping we can help in our small part to make sure families feel not as challenged going back to school in whatever way kids will be learning.”

The resource fair that was part of Back to School Connect is cancelled, but bundles will include promotional material from any organizations that provide it to FCSS well in advance.

The Alberta government, which closed classrooms in mid March due to the pandemic and shifted to on-line learning, has decided school will return this fall.

Parents have the option of keeping children home through distance and other programs.

“In whatever way kids will be learning, whether you’re learning from home or whether you’re learning in the school environment you’re still going to need supplies,” O’Connor said.

People can drop by the office, which is in the G.R. Davis Administration Building on 20th Street, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 19. Aug. 20 and Aug. 21.

“We’re doing it over the three days to make sure people can observe social distancing,” O’Connor explained. “We’re trying to be as cautious and careful as we can.”

Due to the pandemic, there is no free clothing this year.

Last year 603 people turned out at the sports centre for Back to School Connect, illustrating the need for help.

“We’re not covering the whole school list,” O’Connor stressed. “It’s just a small help. We want it to be as fun as possible. Going back to school should be fun and exciting.”

For information, call FCSS at 403-553-4491.

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