School District 84 schools in Gold River, Zeballos, Tahsis, and Kyuquot saw almost 70 per cent students return back to school on Sept.10.
Almost half the population of students in SD84 are Indigenous and come from First Nation communities on West Vancouver Island that have been cautious about opening their territories during the pandemic.
Under such circumstances, the decision of sending children back to school is really up to individual parents, said Lawrence Tarasoff, superintendent of Schools and Secretary Treasurer for SD84.
During community meetings and consultations held by SD84, families were provided with all the information for them to make a better informed choice, said Tarasoff.
“Some of our communities indicated that they are okay with kids coming back to school with the safety precautions we have in place and some have specifically asked if they can do a more gradual return,” said Tarasoff,and added that the schools will support the parents’ decision.
In the event of parents not being comfortable with sending their children to school or those who want to opt for homeschooling, Tarasoff said that the smaller size of SD 84 schools gives them the flexibility to work with individual families to make sure their child is getting good education.
Since some families have also asked to review the progress of back-to-school activities before sending their children to school for the new term, Tarasoff expects to see more students joining school in the coming weeks
As far as protocols are concerned, all five SD84 schools have adapted the health and safety guidelines recommended by health authorities, WorkSafe BC and the Ministry of Education.
School premises are regularly cleaned and students are encouraged to practice frequent handwashing. To facilitate safe interactions between students and teachers, students have been segregated into groups that determine maximum contact sizes.
“We’ve been assured by public health, that if there’s any concern in any of our communities they will be on the scene to deal with that,” said Tarasoff.
SD84 schools are also preparing for any future pandemic related emergencies or shutdowns like the one that took place earlier this year.
“We’re asking our teachers to be prepared and to plan ahead,” said Tarasoff.
The school district has also worked out logistical challenges such as transportation which is a huge dilemma for certain areas on west Vancouver Island that are remote and inaccessible.
Internet connectivity issues are also being addressed in most of these school communities to support remote learning for students who will not be coming back to school.
“For students in remote areas and for families that are not comfortable coming to the school building we certainly have technology available to lend out and support them to continue with their education,” said Tarasoff.