Feature Friday - Covid Secure (from 16/10/2020)
Welcome to Feature Friday. This week we will be looking more in depth at the topic of the year – Covid-19! I know you’re probably all fed up of this topic so I will try and make it as light, interesting and informative as possible!
On the one hand it seems like yesterday that we were all told that we were heading into lockdown and all face to face classes had to stop, on the other hand it seems like a lifetime ago! Since then many things have happened, and many things continue to change on a regular basis.
For me, the first thing was to try and get an understanding of what I could do to allow my students to continue their classes. There was a lot of negative press with Zoom about “Zoombombing” spreading very inappropriate content to young students, so I was very cautious about live online classes until I had looked into this a bit more. I was also conscious of the fact that I live in a very old, fairly small cottage and an indoor studio is not an easy thing to create! Thankfully Fylingdales Village Hall committee were very supportive and allowed me to use the hall to record all our class content to create pre-recorded online classes. 10 hours of filming in one day was a mammoth task! But, with a little (ok, a LOT of) support from Mr Matt, we got all our current classwork filmed. Then there was the equally mammoth task of editing 10 hours of filming into individual exercises to enable me to put tailored classes together. Again, this couldn’t have happened without Mr Matt and his technical help! I have now learned so many (basic!) film editing skills that I couldn’t have done before.
Once it became clear that lockdown was continuing past half term I decided that I had to do live classes. I wanted to see my students, to know how they were getting on, and above all else, I wanted to make sure they were able to have something enjoyable and ‘normal’ to do each week. I had had time to research the issues with online conferencing programmes and ensure they were safe to use and compatible with the needs of the school. By this time Mr Matt had started his new firefighter role and had moved up to Newcastle to help shield our daughter. This meant that I had to balance the teaching of my students with the needs of my family so the fortnightly tap and ballet / contemporary online timetable was created. It was great to see the students dancing again, even with the (thankfully, very few) technical hitches we did encounter. I certainly enjoyed seeing Aggie the Labrador joining in ballet and tap classes each week!
During all this time I was starting to plan for our return to face to face classes as soon as it was possible. During June I attended a series of webinars (a new word I had never come across until this point!) on planning the return to the studio and how this could be done safely and effectively, and I also completed Prevent COVID-19 training through the Virtual College to ensure I was as knowledgeable as possible. July was all about getting the risk assessments completed, and another webinar on steps to reopening. And then began the negotiations with the halls as to whether they were able to open safely and allow us to dance, and the planning of timetables and class ‘bubbles’ to allow as many classes as possible to continue running safely. To read the risk assessment for each venue please visit https://www.meshballet.co.uk/files
The main change to classes is the timetable, specifically the need for gaps between classes. These gaps are to allow me to clean any surfaces that have been touched (floors, door handles, windowsills, light switches, etc) and for the air in the room to refresh. Unfortunately, because I am limited to certain timeslots in the hall in Bay, this meant that I had to drop some classes, which in turn meant disappointing some students as their favourite class was no longer available, and that was heart-breaking! But all this does now mean I am more familiar with EU regulation 528 (concerning the use of biocidal products) and their rating number for products proven to effective on killing previous coronavirus strains. And I’ve discovered I can get really quite excited about a new mop!
Other changes include no changing / waiting areas in the halls, hand sanitizer on entering and leaving classes, socially distanced spacing within all classes (except our pre-schoolers where it is encouraged, but not always achieved!), and no barres or props at present. But the most amazing thing is the fact that every single student – from our youngest to our oldest – has just got on with all the new rules fantastically; ensuring they sanitise their hands, only bringing what they need, staying in their spaces, etc, etc. And for this I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone! As a business I am legally responsible for the behaviour of all my students, children and adults, as they enter and leave as well as during class, and I am so grateful to everyone for following the guidelines and laws and making this easy for me.
There have been quite a few changes to rules so far, and I expect there to be more over the coming months. The most recent ones include the ‘rule of six’ and the new tier system so I have been looking into these – with the help of Arts Safety Management – and how they affect us.
The rule of six means that people cannot interact socially in a group of more than 6 people, but more than 1 group of six can be within a Covid Secure business (such as a pub or dance class) as long as the groups remain socially distanced from each other. As our classes are set up so that individuals are socially distanced this means that we can have up to 15 students (9 in Lythe) in the hall and still not have any groups interacting socially. As long as students maintain that distance as they enter and leave class, we are not breaking any rules.
The new tier system currently allows for under 18s to continue to attend dance classes in all 3 tiers, but for over 18s it gets a bit more tricky! Classes are able to go ahead as usual in medium alert areas (the bottom tier) but in high and very high alert areas then classes are only permitted indoors “if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with”. This means, that with our socially distanced class set-up, we would be able to continue if we were classified as a high or very high alert area, however; if we hit the top tier I would consider limiting the number of people in the class for extra safety and encourage those more vulnerable people to stay home. For more information on the alert levels please go to ttps://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-levels-what-you-need-to-know?mc_cid=ff6f2dff7c&mc_eid=1e87649e5f
So, that is a brief insight into what has been going on behind the scenes to ensure that everyone remains as safe as possible whilst still being able to enjoy their dancing. And it doesn’t end there; I continue to attend relevant training and accessing support to ensure I am staying Covid Secure, and to plan ahead for our show next year – which may be a slightly different experience to past shows as we enter the realms of Covid-secure show planning! But I’m going to leave that for another feature.
If anyone has any questions about this then please do get in touch. And before I finish I just want to say once again a huge big THANK YOU to everyone for helping us stay safe whilst achieving our best together!