School District 73 is expected to release its plan for continuing educational services on Wednesday morning, following the province’s decision to suspend classes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision affects all public and private schools.
In-person classes across the province have been suspended until further notice as the provincial government continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Premier John Horgan, Minister of Education Rob Fleming and Finance Minister Carol James provided an update on steps the provincial government is taking to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move to suspend classes in B.C. comes days following other extended closures of schools in provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Fleming announced all public and independent schools in B.C. will end in-class instruction and districts will begin formulating plans for some kind of remote instruction following spring break.
For most school districts, this will mean planning ahead to March 30, but SD73 has only a one-week spring break, ending on March 20.
School District 73’s pandemic response team met Tuesday to build its plan for continuing instruction.
SD73 superintendent Alison Sidow said the general framework of the district’s plan is being communicated to the Kamloops-Thompson school board on Tuesday afternoon and the plan will be made public following that.
Sidow said moving to an online platform while in-class instruction is suspended in B.C. is one option they are considering.
“Our plan will be broad enough that it’s adaptable, but specific enough to make sure everybody is safe and being cared for in an appropriate manner during these unprecedented times,” Sidow said.
School districts have been tasked with formulating plans for some kind of remote instruction following spring break, with services for vulnerable students such as meal programs expected to be addressed as school buildings won’t be shuttered.
Asked if SD73 will need to have its plan in place for next Monday (March 23) or if all instruction will be cancelled next week, Sidow said those discussions continue.
“Also, we need to ensure that those who have compromised health conditions are addressed as well, so there’s lots of planning going on and we should have more to announce either first thing tomorrow morning or later this afternoon,” Sidow told KTW on Tuesday.
She said the district is also working to identifying the students who rely on SD73 schools for nutrition and other supports.
“There will be additional wraparound services for them,” Sidow said.
Fleming said all students on track to move to the next grade or graduate will do so and all students will receive a final grade, but Grade 10 and 11 provincial exams will be postponed.
Fleming said the only graduation assessment requirement for Grade 12 students is their Grade 10 numeracy assessment, which most students have already fulfilled.
The ministry plans to ensure those students who do not have this requirement and are otherwise on track to graduate are able to meet this graduation requirement.
Other essential programs, such as school meal programs, are expected to continue, with individual districts making plans to continue those programs.
“We don’t have all the answers today,” Fleming said.
Day cares have not be ordered to close, Horgan told reporters, noting that has not been the direction of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at this time, but adding the situation could change.
Fleming said “it’s a little early” to comment when asked about the likelihood of graduation ceremonies and if most students will transfer to some form of online learning, noting that education continuity planning will look different for primary, intermediate and secondary school students.
“We have 57 online learning providers in B.C.” he said. “Right now, the entire B.C. curriculum is available online.”
What comes to fruition may be a combination of new types of electronic classroom-based instruction organized through teachers or transferring students into registering into online courses, he said.
“We’ve got the sector putting their minds to it right now and we’ll have more to say on that later,” Fleming said.