School District 57 will be ready to have students return to classes on a part time basis by June 1, says Superintendent Anita Richardson.
The district is working out the details now, following the announcement this morning by Premier John Horgan and Education Minister Rob Fleming that some classes will resume as part of the province’s plan to restart things put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will be receiving guidelines from the ministry later today,” Richardson said. “We will be making sure the plans we’ve been working on … will fit to the guidelines to the ministry.”
She said the district’s intention is to have classes starting June 1.
Victoria announced the number of students in school each day will be reduced, with most receiving in-class instruction part time. School districts will determine scheduling for classes and transportation arrangements. For kindergarten to Grade 5, this means most students will go to school half time (such as alternating days), while grades 6 to 12 will go to school about one day a week. Children of essential service workers and students needing additional supports will have the option to attend school full time. Families that decide not to send their children to class may continue learning from home.
This will likely mean, for those students going back to school, attending on a rotational basis.
“(This will) meet the overall goal of reducing the density in our schools of having a roughly 50 per cent density for our K-5 students and a roughly 20 per cent density in our students in Grades 6-12,” she said.
Board chair Tim Bennett said the district has had students in school since the end of March as children of essential workers have continued to attend.
Richardson added that, at this point, the district has not received any direction regarding extending the school year past June 27, the normal end of the school year.
Richardson said the district is meeting the teachers’ association and district parent advisory council today to iron out the plans.
Even though the return is not mandatory, Richardson said there will be continuity of learning for all students and the challenge of delivering education remotely or in person.
“One thing that’s been happening is an increase in inequity in learning across our district, and across the province, for students who struggle learning in this environment or who have legitimate struggles accessing the ability to learn in this environment, via technology or access to documents from school … For some students it’s even more important that they come back to school.”
Those students, she said, may see more time in the classroom than others.
The Ministry of Education has developed a five-stage approach to operate schools, depending on risk of transmission. Schools will also have plans in place for each stage, ensuring they are ready to make changes if there is a risk of transmission, a second wave or a community outbreak.
Each school district and independent school must have its return-to-class and safety plans approved by the ministry before moving to the next stage. The plans will be posted on each district’s website for families to access. The ministry will support boards of education and independent school authorities in building these plans, and operations during the pandemic will be regularly monitored.
Since returning to class is voluntary and most students will be attending part time, school leaders will contact families to make arrangements for children to return to in-class instruction. If parents have not heard from their schools by May 22, they are asked to contact their principal. Parents and caregivers are advised to follow the schedule provided for their child to ensure a safe and orderly restart.