SD91 has been preparing a written plan, after the province announced their back-to-school date. The written plan will be submitted for provincial approval, to allow for safe return of students and staff to schools in the regional school district.
Parents and students will be able to access the school district’s plan to get students back-to-school on Aug 26 after it is approved by the provincial government, said Mike Skinner, assistant superintendent for SD91.
Once the written plan is submitted, the ministry will approve or ask for revisions based on B.C.’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings document.
As per the K-12 Settings document, even though the provincial government has announced a return to in-class instruction in September under stage 2, school districts and independent schools are still required to have plans in place to be able to shift between stages if needed.
Stage 2 of the plan calls for full-time instruction for all students within specific group sizes or cohorts. Cohorts would basically have students divided in learning groups, with a maximum cohort size of 60 for elementary and middle school and a cohort size of 120, for secondary schools.
Recently, the province announced a back-to-school date for Sept. 8 and then pushed it back by another two days to help staff and teachers better prepare.
Skinner said the delayed start will allow SD91 staff to be trained in the new health and safety protocols, as well as the cohort model before students return.
“We are currently working on the orientation plan for our students on Sept. 10 – Sept. 11 based on the new procedures,” he said.
Additionally, the school-district will also be running their bus service for students. Skinner said the buses will be managed as per the Centre of Disease Control and British Columbia protocols.
“We have masks on order, from the provincial supplier,” he said.
Even though masks are not mandatory currently, the province has recommended wearing masks when one cannot properly socially distance.
However, not everyone is supportive of the provincial back-to-school plan.
B.C. Teacher’s Union called for additional protocols to be implemented by the province for their back-to-school plan on Aug. 9.
“In an ideal situation, back to learning would mean all schools are safe for 100 per cent of students, teachers, and support staff to all return at once,” said BCTF president Teri Mooring in a Aug.9 press release.
“However, the sharp rise in active COVID-19 cases has many people worried that the government has not done enough to ensure teachers, students and their families are safe,” she said.
In order to ensure a safer return to schools, the teacher’s union is asking for expanding the mask mandate to students aged 10 and older in areas where social distancing is not possible. This includes classrooms, labs and libraries.
The union also suggested that remote learning options be considered for the safety of immunocompromised staff and students. Having remote learning options will help decrease the number of students in classrooms as well, stated the release.
However, as per B.C.’s current back-to-school plan, a full-time return to school for students is the only available option.
“As stated in the provincial protocols, virtual or hybrid learning will not be available in Stage 2,” Skinner said, adding that there may be a few unique circumstances based on government guidelines, which would require “student learning adaptations.”
Details of SD91’s back-to-school plan will be shared with the public as soon as the school district receives approval from the provincial government. Additionally, schools will be individually releasing their specific plans closer to the start of school in September.
With files from Katya Slepian.