Once again, my Board Report remains in the virtual world. Thanks to technology, we have actually had a very busy month. This month has been chock-full of emails and Zoom meetings; keeping in constant contact with the Superintendent on district happenings, listening to the Minister of Education on plans to re-open schools in a safely phased plan, keeping the board up-to-date on all the goings-on and listening to concerns from parents and students. It has been an ever-changing scenario, and while we sit back and wait, we still have to keep moving.
It is human nature to try to ‘fix things’, but this isn’t something we can fix right away. There is a time and place that you just have to trust in those who are working on it. We are following what Dr. Henry and our local health authority advise, and our number one priority is the safety of our students and staff. There is no flipping of a switch here. The phases being set in place will only be implemented when it is safe to do so and there is a go-ahead from the Ministry. No parents will be forced to send their children back to school if they are just not ready, even if deemed safe. That’s okay. We will have systems set in place for this too.
Currently, we sit in Stage 4. Children of our essential workers with-in our community are getting in-class learning time. Schools themselves are an essential service because we know how much learning loss can occur when not in a regular learning environment over time, especially those from K-5. The next phase (Stage 3) therefore, will be offering students K-5, part-time in-class time and older students as needed. There is also a ‘growing risk of inequity’ as the province turns to electronic devices for learning. Not everyone has the means to learn over the internet. So, when it is safe to do so, the Ministry will be implementing the next phase (Stage 2) that has K-7 learning full time and 8-12 engaged in part-time learning in school, and the rest of their learning online. There will be strict guidelines for Health and Safety in our schools.
The hope is that eventually, we are moving toward the ‘new normal’ (Stage 1): in-class learning for all our students. We will have to be flexible in how we approach these stages. Nothing is cut and dry. Having a plan is always good practice, but as we go forward, we must remain flexible, but trust in those who are guiding us. We are all in this together.
Up-to-date school district information can be found on our website www.sd46.bc.ca under COVID-19 Updates, and more detailed information on the five stages of returning to in-class learning under Backgrounder 2 at https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BG_Parks_and_Sites_and_In-Class_Learning.pdf