It’s no secret that school is going to look a lot different this fall. But just how different it will look to the approximately 5,000 students in the Campbell River School District was something parents were hoping to find out during a special school board meeting on Aug. 25.
Board trustees and district staff met in a room at Timberline Secondary to satisfy physical distancing requirements – part of our new normal these days.
Following the Ministry of Education’s late-July announcement that schools would be entering Stage 2 –a return to full-time, in-class instruction– this fall, school districts were forced to come up with plans to satisfy provincial requirements. This was something SD72 had already been doing, but the cohort designation that will be used this fall came as a surprise. So they rejigged their plans, which were approved by the province and presented those plans during the virtual meeting. It was the only item on the agenda of a highly-attended meeting. According to the district the over two-hour-long meeting, which was hosted through Microsoft Teams, had 600 unique attendees.
After presenting the plan (see related coverage), trustees and staff answered incoming questions.
While the Ministry of Education sets a top-down approach to many aspects of the return to school, it’s up to individual districts to apply those rules and guidelines locally. So what is happening in our Campbell River School District may not be the same as what is taking place in the Vernon School District, the Prince George School District or even neighbouring Vancouver Island West School District.
That inequality between districts has come under fire from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. President Terri Mooring wants to see a remote option offered across the province, “that allows their [parents’] child to stay connected to their home school, that allows them to keep their sport in their home school.”
This option is available in Campbell River. It’s called eBlend (for those in kindergarten through Grade 9) and EBOS (for Grade 10 through 12).
With these programs, students remain connected to their schools and will have a spot for in-person instruction for fall 2021. Students in eBlend and EBOS will be supported by a teacher throughout the year and can access option one-on-way support if needed.
For those families not wanting to send their kids to in-person class, this seems like a win, especially if they have the ability to have someone home with their kid.
Now we know that this will not work for everyone. But even if 1/4 of people choose to do this, that’s fewer people in classrooms.
Based on the interest from families, which will be gauged through a survey sent to families at the end of August, the district will assign teachers to either a classroom or to support students in the eBlend and EBOS programs. Unlike the hybrid model from the part-time optional return to school before summer, teachers will not be responsible for both. The district is asking for a one-year commitment from families for whatever option they choose this year, as they can’t guarantee that they’ll have the staffing or the space for mid-year changes.
Our district has now had months to formulate a plan and even had a dry run with sold-out summer school offerings in July.
But as district staff and trustees continue to repeat, the decision on whether to return to in-person school, or not, is ultimately up to parents and guardians.
“Now it is up to parents to decide how they would like to proceed with their children’s education,” said Board Chair Richard Franklin. “As your board chair, I support whatever decision you make and I know our district will do what we can to help.”
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