View from SD73: Here's why you should trust the education restart plan

I encourage you to read the SD73 Restart Plan, the health and safety guidelines and the frequently asked questions, all of which are posted on the district’s website and on the website of your child’s school.

There is a feeling of uncertainty for some members of our communities as the first day of school approaches.

Parents, students, teachers and staff are being asked to trust the school district and its School District 73 Education Restart Plan.

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I know this is a big request.

The board of education understands people may feel concerned. Let me explain why we support this plan. We trust the direction provided by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. We agree with her words: “It is that important for us to be able to have school, manage school, despite having a pandemic ... we can get through this and we will be working together to make sure that we have the things that are needed in place.”

The school district is following Henry’s guidance and the parameters she has set with the Ministry of Education. The district plan has been approved by the Ministry of Education and it is supported by our education partners.

The plan has been reviewed and input was provided by the Kamloops District Parent Advisory Council, the SD73 board of education, the Kamloops-Thompson Principal and Vice-Principal Association, the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association, the Aboriginal Education Council and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3500.

Schools will look different this year. They will not be open to the general public. They will be controlled spaces, with parents and caregivers making appointments to visit. Stringent hygiene and cleanliness standards will be kept and students will have contact only with others in their learning groups. This contact will not necessarily occur with everyone in their learning group every day, but it may occur over the course of the school year.

There’s a lot more to say about how schools will be kept safe in the maintaining safe and healthy schools guidelines, posted to the sd73.bc.ca website.

Parents and caregivers have options. Distance learning and home schooling are alternatives to in-class instruction.

Equity and inclusion will be a particular focus for each student. SD73 students with an inclusive education plan, who attend in person or enrol in distance learning at @KOOL will continue to receive support. Students who need to stay home because they are immunocompromised will have an at-home learning plan and be provided with an educational program. Schools will be providing social-emotional and well-being supports for students and staff.

Beginning this week, every family will have an opportunity to discuss their child’s options with their home school before the start of the school year. School staff will be reaching out to answer questions, provide information and help parents determine the best option for their children.

We all have a role to play in keeping each other safe this school year. That includes staying home if we feel ill and, as parents, keeping our children home if they are sick.

I encourage you to read the SD73 Restart Plan, the health and safety guidelines and the frequently asked questions, all of which are posted on the district’s website and on the website of your child’s school.

We are confident in our principals, teachers and support staff and we know our schools, communities and, most importantly, your children are in good hands as we begin the 2020-2021 school year. We look forward to welcoming our staff and students back to our schools.

Rhonda Kershaw is aSchool District 73 trustee and chair of the board of education. SD73 columns appear monthly in the print edition of KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com during the school year. Kershaw can be reached via email at rkershaw@sd73.bc.ca. To comment on this column, email editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.

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