Even at one-third its normal size, Nicky Mey’s Grade 1 class still
hums and clamours with the sound of seven pairs of scampering feet and
squealing laughter that bounces off the walls of the busy classroom.
This might be just another Thursday in June for other attendees of
North Vancouver’s Eastview Elementary, but it’s Superhero Day for these
children, who’ve bravely accepted the invitation to appear in class.
It’s been three weeks since British Columbia reopened classrooms to all
students for Stage 3 of its school restart plan. Spread safely
throughout the room, first-graders sport shirts emblazoned with the
symbols of beloved comic book characters—from Spider-Man to The
Flash—while spinning tops, discussing their favourite fruit snacks and
doodling on twin whiteboards at opposite ends of the room.
This is not school as the kids knew it when they left in March. By
the 8:41 a.m. warning bell, attendees are keenly queueing up at
designated outdoor meeting spots. Eastview’s emblematic eagle now serves
as a mnemonic tool for safe social distancing, reminding kids to
maintain an eagle’s wingspan from others. “We like to say, ‘Lets give
everybody a space to soar,’ ” says Chan. “It’s a positive way to frame
the idea of giving one another space.”
As children file indoors, teachers direct them to hand-washing
stations for regular hygiene exercises that bookend not just school days
but recess and lunch—breaks staggered though the day to limit outdoor
interaction. Face masks aren’t mandatory; on this day, neither staff nor
students are seen wearing them. But everyone follows arrows taped to
floors that direct traffic back and forth, keeping them on opposite
sides of hallways. Entryways are left open to minimize contact with
While social distancing is easier for older students, Chan notes, the
goal for free-spirited younger ones is to limit physical contact.
Rather than sharing supplies such as scissors and markers, they’re
assigned their own.
At about 9:30 a.m., Mey’s students sit attentively at markers spread
out on the carpet before her, focused on their teacher, who has selected
an illustrated read for storytime: Even Superheroes Have Bad Days.
“When superheroes don’t get their way, when they’re sad, when they’re
mad, and they have a bad day, they could use their superpowers to kick, punch and pound,” Mey reads. “They could shriek, they could screech with an ear-piercing sound.”
Before turning each page, she twists to hold up the book for several
students visible on a laptop behind her, streaming storytime through
their computers at home. With the province limiting school density for
K-5 students to 50 per cent, Eastview runs a rotation to ensure no more
than half the class is present on a given day. But families looking to
keep their kids current are invited to tune into daily video conferences
that follow weekly lesson plans shared online.
None of the superheroes in Mey’s group seems prone to tantrums, or
punching or kicking, even at recess. Rather than playing tag or
football, students opt for calmer, role-playing games conducted in loose
circles on the grass. Playgrounds are sparsely occupied, and mainstays
such as slides and monkey bars are barely touched. One boy sets off by
himself to blow bubbles in a field.
There is a fair bit of shrieking, however, when Mey invites the class
to invent names for their self-styled alter egos, especially when one
boy at home announces his through the laptop speaker. “Captain
Underpants!” he cries, before clarifying that he’s chosen the name
because he is indeed wearing underpants. Even at home, students dress
“Yes, you are,” Mey says approvingly. “Of course you are.”