School district unveils return-to-class plan

Parents of School District 57 students will get answers in the next few days about what their children’s education will look like when schools begin a partial return to class next week.

In an presentation to the district board of education on Tuesday night, district superintendent Anita Richardson unveiled what the district schedule will look like when Phase 3 of the B.C. Restart Plan comes into effect for schools on June 1.

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"Parents should expect a call soon from their school to let them know what days their student will attend," Richardson said. "We know that not every parent will choose to return their children to our schools. Certainly the numbers are quite large many, many of our schools. But we're not yet at a full return at our schools."

Parents were contacted last week to fill out a form indicating if they intended to send their children back to class in June or not. Schools have been reaching out to parents who indicated they were unsure and many of those have now opted to send their children, Richardson said.

Any parent who indicated they will not to send their child to school has the option to contact their child's school principal and change their mind over the coming weeks, she said. Arranging that return may take a couple days, to allow class sizes to be rearranged to maintain the mandated number of students.

Students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 will return to class two days a week, either Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday, in order to maintain 50 per cent or less of students in the school at one time.

Students will be divided into groups alphabetically, Richardson said, with some allowances made to keep family groups together.

Students in Grades 6 and 7 will attend one day a week, either Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.

"The goal would be to try to split the alphabet so there is 20 per cent (of students) every day," Richardson said.

Secondary school students in Grades 8 to 12 will also attend one day a week, and will attend classes based on their regular timetable.

For all grades, Wednesdays will be set aside specifically for teachers to work with and support students who are learning from home.

Children needing extra supports, and elementary school students whose parents are essential workers, will continue to be able to attend classes up to five days a week as they already have been, Richardson said.

Each school is developing specific safety protocols for staff and students to access the building, she said.

Students and staff will be assessed if they are sick before entering, and no staff or students will be allowed to attend if they are unwell, Richardson said. In addition, if any student starts to show symptoms while at school they will be asked to leave.

For students who can't leave immediately, each school will have a space for that student to self-isolate until a parent or guardian can pick them up, she said.

"All of our schools already have designated washing areas," Richardson said. 

Students should only bring what they need for that day, as they will not have access to lockers or bins at school. No sharing of food, school supplies or other materials will be allowed.

Students should not bring any food to school that requires being heated or prepared, because students won't have access to microwaves at schools.

Parents should arrange rides for their children to get to and from school if possible, however school bus service will be available.

Social distancing measures will be enforced on school buses, which may mean barriers between students and bus drivers in some cases, Richardson said. In addition student will each be required to sit in a separate seat, unless they are family members who live together.

Information for parents and student will be available on the School District 57 website: www.sd57.bc.ca.

"We look to have all of our plan available at the very latest by Friday, hopefully at the soonest tomorrow," Richardson said.

Richardson also had some good news for younger children and their parents.

"(Provincial health officer) Dr. Bonnie Henry has indicated that playgrounds should be able to reopen safely," she said. "We are currently working with local governments on reopening playgrounds."

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