The province’s announcement on the back-to-school date had School District 91 (SD91) preparing a written plan last week to be submitted for provincial approval for a safe return of students and staff to the schools.
“We are currently working on our restart plan to submit to the gov’t and the SD91 plan will be posted online once approved on Aug. 26,” said Mike Skinner, the assistant superintendent for SD91.
Once the school district submits a plan, the ministry will have to approve or ask for revisions on the plan based on the government’s Provincial Covid-19 Health and Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings document.
The document outlines BC’s five-stage framework for reopening schools as well as guidelines on student transportation on buses, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, curriculum, extracurricular activities, orientation practices, etc.
The document states that “while BC has announced a return to in-class instruction under Stage 2 for September 2020, school districts and independent schools must have necessary plans in place to be able to shift between stages if and when required.”
The Stage 2 of the plan calls for full time instruction for all students within specific group sizes or cohorts. The 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.
Last week, the province announced a back-to-school date for Sep. 8 and then pushed it back by another two days to help the staff and teachers better prepare.
“The delayed start with allow staff to be trained in the new Health and Safety protocols and the cohort model before students return. We are currently working on the orientation plan for our students on Sept 10-11 based on the new procedures,” said Skinner.
SD91 would also be running bus service for the students.
“We are going to be running buses as per CDC BC protocols and we have masks on order from the provincial supplier,” said Skinner. Although masks are not mandatory, the province has recommended wearing masks when you can’t properly socially distance; things like hallways and school buses and would be providing school districts with masks for students, teacher and the staff.
Not everyone is supportive of the province’s back-to-school plan.
B.C. teachers’ union, on August 19, called for additional protocols to be implemented for the province’s back-to-school decision. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) although voiced their support in bringing students back to learning, also listed concerns over the province’s plan.
In a press release, BCTF president Teri Mooring said a recent spike in COVID-19 cases has lead to concerns for teachers, parents and students.
“In an ideal situation, back to learning would mean all schools are safe for 100 per cent of students, teachers, and support staff to return all at once,” Mooring said. “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.”
To ensure a safer return to schools, the union is asking for expanding the mask mandate to students aged 10 and older in areas where social distancing is not possible, as well as in classrooms, labs and libraries. They are also of the opinion that remote learning options should be available for the safety of immunocompromised staff and students, as well as to decrease the number of people in classrooms.
However, as per the current provincial 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. There maybe a few unique circumstances based on the gov’t guidelines that would require student learning adaptations,” said Skinner.
Skinner told Lakes District News that the details of the plan would be shared with the public as soon as the school district has an approval.
“Also, individual schools will be communicating out their specific planning closer to the start of school,” he said.
With files from Katya Slepian.