Around 70 per cent of parents who completed a Sea to Sky School District survey say they plan to send their children back to school in June.
Roughly half of the families in the district responded.
“I believe it’s much higher in elementary than in secondary schools,” said Lisa McCullough, superintendent with the district. “Nevertheless, that is a lot of kids planning to return. I think I expected a little more hesitation out of the blocks … In general, our community has gotten their confidence up about coming back.”
As part of the rules laid out by the Ministry of Education, school density will be restricted to 50 per cent for kindergarten to Grade 5 and 20 per cent for Grades 6 to 12.
“We are ready for this and we are reopening because we believe it is safe to do,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, during her daily briefing on Saturday, May 30. “My team and the team in public health have been actively working with many people in our education system and we have confidence that the approach we put in place in schools across this province are the appropriate ones and the ones that will keep us all safe.”
She also said officials chose June 1 as a return date because it offered some buffer time after the province began lifting restrictions to see if the number of COVID-19 cases would spike or not.
“I’ve been comfortable with what we’ve been watching that we’re in a place that we can do this now,” Henry said.
For her part, McCullough said the district is also ready.
“(Our team has) done a terrific job,” she said. “Our schools are ready in terms of having the classrooms designed as a more open, spacious setting. If there were any spaces that had furniture or equipment, we were able to reduce that to keep the mobility enhanced … We’ve reduced the number of high-touch surfaces as well.”
To comply with density restrictions, students from kindergarten to Grade 5 can return for two days a week starting on Monday, June 1.
Students have been broken into two groups alphabetically—in an effort to ensure family members are returning on the same days—with A to L returning on Mondays and Thursdays and M to Z on Tuesdays and Fridays. (That could vary from school to school, McCullough added.)
“On Wednesdays, our teachers will get some time to be in touch with those kids who have not been attending (in-school classes),” she said.
Middle and high school students, meanwhile, have the option to return one day a week.
Grades 10, 11, and 12 will come in and be grouped with a career and life education classroom teacher. “During that day, they will meet with other teachers and get any help and clarity and support for the other courses they’re doing,” McCullough said.
Part of the benefit of having students return to classes for one month ahead of summer break is to serve as a dry run for September when COVID-19 protocols will more than likely still be in place.
“I actually think that is one of the critical, ongoing reasons why I understand the government is taking this step,” said McCullough, adding the return to school is part of the BC Restart Plan, not instigated by the district. “A big piece is we want to be as flexible and nimble as we can as a province in terms of learning this new flow throughout this exposure control.”
The return to classes this June is voluntary and students can wait before deciding if they’re ready to return, she added.
“We really encourage everyone to come in at your own readiness to do so,” McCullough said. “We believe we have all the plans in place to keep everyone safe and do great learning together … A big thank you to the whole community—staff, the communities, and other community partners, as well have given us tremendous support with food security and provisions for families, support for devices and so on.”