Campbell River District Teachers Association President Debra Coombes. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Campbell River District Teachers Association President Debra Coombes. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Campbell River education leaders see silver lining in provincial back-to-school plan

District supt. and teachers’ association pres. weigh in on health-and-safety announcement

When teachers and students left schools in Campbell River this June, many held out hope they could return in the fall without having to cover their faces in the classroom.

It was assumed cases would drop over the course of the summer, and an uptick in vaccinations would make everyone feel a tad safer. As many memes inform us, however, the delta variant of the coronavirus put a kibosh on those fall plans.

A provincial health and safety announcement on Tuesday informed students and parents of a number of measures, including one which made it clear masks would be required for children Grade 4 and older attending school in B.C.

School District 72 Superintendent Jeremy Morrow said a detailed communication to parents is expected on Monday. He is expecting feedback from a few parents who are unhappy with any of the safety protocols in place, but thinks the majority of parents will quietly support it.

“The updated protocols from the Ministry are very much in line with where we left in June, and I think the only disappointing piece is when students were leaving in June it felt very much like we may be back in September with a reduction in some of those protocols,” Morrow said.

“The most important safety measure in schools is the same as last year,” he pointed out. “It’s those daily health checks – making sure that both our staff and students are not coming to school if they’re feeling ill in any way.”

READ MORE: B.C. teachers say back-to-school plan doesn’t address testing, ventilation concerns

READ MORE: Masks required for Grade 4 and older in B.C. as part of return-to-school plan

He said the big difference between this year and last will be around extra-curricular activities.

“We’re thrilled about it,” he said. “We know the health and well-being of our students is so impacted by some of those extra things that take place outside of the walls of the classroom.

“We still have some final details to hear regarding whether a senior sports team can travel to different health authorities, but at this time we’ve been given a green light to move forward with regular extra-curricular activities.”

Without the cohort model which was in place last year, students will now be able to take part in arts and sporting activities with peers from other classes and age groups.

Morrow said they will be aligning themselves closely with the provincial guidelines in most areas, but one area in which extra measures will take place will be Grade 3/4 split classes, where Grade 3 students attending will also be required to wear masks.

Campbell River District Teachers’ Association President Debra Coombes said most kids Grade 3 and younger will probably be sent to school with masks regardless.

“By-and-large a lot of parents encouraged their children – even those below Grade 4 – to wears masks last semester,” she said. “We would encourage parents to do so again this year.

“A lot of the kids that are below Grade 4 are wearing masks in the general public, so I don’t think it’s out of their realm of experience to do it in class.”

She said there is a little less anxiety from the teachers in her association compared to last year too.

“We have a huge number of teachers who have taken their vaccines, so they’re feeling that level of protection that they didn’t have most of last year,” she said.

The first day of school for students will be Tuesday, Sept. 7.

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