There won’t be any changes to the current remote learning model for at least two weeks as School District 73 plans to use the time to prepare for a return to school.
At the request of the Ministry of Education, SD73 is planning to reintroduce in-person classes on a voluntary, part-time basis, beginning with kindergarten to Grade 5 students and students of essential-service workers, as B.C. begins easing distancing measures amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents will have a choice of either having their child continue with online education or having them return to small class groups at school.
In an update to trustees at Monday’s school board meeting, SD73 Supt. Alison Sidow said the district’s return date is unknown as they await that announcement from the education ministry.
Sidow told trustees staff will be back in schools, planning for the return of students next week.
Through May 15, school principals are reaching out to parents to determine the expected number of students who will be returning to school, assistant superintendent Trish Smillie said.
The district is also is taking this time to ensure appropriate health and safety guidelines and increased cleaning protocols are in place, and are awaiting some guidance form the province, Smillie said.
Sidow said the provincial health officer’s guidelines for schools will be assessed against SD73’s own and best practices used.
Following the long weekend, teachers will return to set up their classrooms and staff will also be trained in health and safety guidelines, Smillie said.
Teachers will have dedicated time to teach those students who remain with the online learning model when part-time classes resume.
However, Sidow said the district is still waiting to hear from the province regarding how much time is expected to be dedicated to face-to-face instruction.
Student of essential-service workers, who have been attending in-person class at either Lloyd George elementary or Pacific Way elementary during the pandemic, will continue to be taught in the classroom, but will go back to their neighbourhood elementary school five days per week starting on May 19.
SD73 director of instruction Rick Kienlien told trustees there are currently 34 students attending the two essential-service schools.
During the next two weeks, K-5 teachers will continue teaching classes remotely while at the same time preparing to incorporate the in-class instruction.
“For the next two weeks, parents should not notice any difference and we will be advising them once we get more direction from the ministry,” Sidow said.
The plan in stages
The province has released a five-stage outline of how in-person classes will resume across all school districts as B.C. begins easing physical-distancing rules.
SD73 and the rest of the province is currently in stage four and about to move to stage three.
Stage five involved suspending all in-class instruction and moving to remote learning models. Stage four is having in-class learning for children of essential service workers and vulnerable students alongside remote and online learning continuing for most students.
Stage three has in-class learning for students in kindergarten to Grade 5 on a part-time basis, with access to in-class learning as needed for grades 6 to 12 on a part-time basis and with remote and online learning still available for students.
Stage two will see in-class learning for all students in elementary school (K to 7) on a full-time basis, in-class learning for secondary students (grades 8 to 12) on a part-time basis, and remote and online learning continuing to be available for secondary students.
Stage one will see a full return to in-class instruction.
No classes will take place over the summer months.
In announcing B.C.’s plans for easing physical-distancing rules, Premier John Horgan noted no one will be forced to have their children return to schools, but added the government is working to ensure students whose families need to have their kids in class have that option.
“We understand parents have questions about the safety of their children as they return to school and it’s OK for parents to be concerned,” Horgan said, noting many schools are already operating safely for children of essential-service workers.
Horgan said the province continues to prepare for the “full-resumption of classes in September.”
Horgan announced that when in-person instruction resumes, there will be smaller class sizes, increased spacing between desks, alternating attendance arrangements, frequent hand washing and surface cleaning, the wearing of non-medical masks for group activities or sports and group size limits.
There will also be daily screenings of students and staff, with those who have any cold or flu-like symptoms to refrain from attending school.