School year will begin with an orientation week

Classes were initially scheduled to begin on Sept. 8, but the first few days of the week after Labour Day will be used to ensure everyone understands the new setup, which includes regular classrooms, but a cap on learning groups through the school year.

The new school year will have a gradual start as the first week will be used to orient students and staff on new pandemic-related health and safety measures in place.

Classes were initially scheduled to begin on Sept. 8, but the first few days of the week after Labour Day will be used to ensure everyone understands the new setup, which includes regular classrooms, but a cap on learning groups through the school year.

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Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the province is reintroducing K-12 students to full-time in-class instruction across B.C. in segregated learning groups — 60 for elementary and middle schools and 120 for secondary schools.

"Schools are going to look different in September," Education Minister Rob Fleming said.

"Staff, students and parents need time to get familiar with all the new health and safety procedures that are designed to keep them safe and confident in their school settings."

Starting Sept. 8, all staff will meet with their school's joint health and safety committee to receive instructions about how the updated guidelines, co-developed with the BC Centre for Disease Control and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, will work in their schools.

Staff will use the first few days to adjust to their new routines, finalize plans for learning groups, review health and safety protocols and confirm lesson plans.

Students will be welcomed back to class for orientation by Sept. 10 and will use their orientation time to get familiar with classrooms that will look different than they did before the pandemic.

Students will be assigned to their class, find out who is in their learning group, practise their new routines and familiarize themselves with how to safely move from the class to outdoor and common areas of the school.

On Aug. 10, school districts were given checklists to ensure they are updating their health and safety plans.

The K-12 education restart steering committee and working groups are also creating operational guidelines, which will be available by Aug. 17, to support school districts with their restart plans.

The guidelines include implementing the updated health and safety protocols, ensuring kids who require extra support are prioritized and have the services they need, supporting the mental health and wellness of students who may be experiencing additional challenges because of the pandemic, ensuring fewer contacts and a safe workplace for those who interact with more than one learning group — such as specialists, teachers on call, educational assistants, cafeteria staff or bus drivers and supporting hybrid instruction with a blend of in-person learning and remote learning for dense urban secondary schools with large student populations.

The local restart plan is scheduled to be reviewed by the Kamloops-Thompson board of education on Aug. 19, then submitted to the Ministry of Education by Aug. 21.

On Aug. 26, the school district will share the plan with parents, staff and the broader community.

The school district has a frequently asked questions page on its website (sd73.bc.ca) to address concerns from students, staff and families. Updates will be posted as details are clarified leading up to the final plan’s reveal on Aug. 26.

Parents who do not want to send their children to school, or who have immune-compromised children, can access distance-learning options, but those options will not be provided by the regular classroom teacher. Parents who choose that route should contact their school principal by Aug. 31.

For more information on the K-12 Education Restart Plan, visit gov.bc.ca/covid19returntoschool.

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