SD83 Back to School Plan

Information for Students, Parents and Staff Regarding the Return to School

Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff, and Students,

It is with great excitement that we welcome you all back to another school year. For more than half of our students, it has been nearly six months since they have set foot in their school. We are hearing that many cannot wait to get back in session, see their friends and favourite staff members, and return to a “normal” learning routine.

For those of you who need additional assurance, please know that our staff have gone above and beyond to provide the very safest, cleanest, and best organized environment we could, and that our work will continue on throughout the school year and beyond. We have learned a great deal through the June restart and have applied those lessons to our
opening this September. Please take some time to review this document, as it gives more detail regarding our District Restart and our District Safety Plan. Additionally, each school will be providing their own site-specific information, which they will be sharing with you in the coming weeks.

If you need to know more, please continue to review our website for the most current information, including more details regarding the Ministry’s cohort model. As well, please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s school as the start-up dates approach. We are looking forward to seeing students in our schools and to continuing with the type of high
quality teaching and learning that our district and province has become famous for providing.

See you all soon!
Sincerely,
Peter Jory
Superintendent of School/CEO
School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap)

Safety Orientation for Staff – September 8-9
All SD83 staff will participate in health and safety training and orientation on September 8th at each of their assigned sites. Meetings will focus on general safety protocols, the use of the cohort model, and strategies to limit cross-cohort contact. These strategies will include controlled traffic flow with directional arrows in hallways, dividing common areas and playgrounds, and the use of masks and distancing when not in cohort specific groups.

Staff will also have meeting time to plan within their own class and cohort teams. Parents will be receiving specific information about these measures from their child’s school.

Itinerant staff (those who travel from school to school) will be assigned a site to attend for at least one orientation session, and follow-up sessions will be arranged at their alternate sites to cover site specific information. Our District Health and Safety Officer will be hosting Teams sessions for groups not assigned to a specific site, including teachers teaching on call and casual CUPE staff.

Safety Orientation for Students – September 10-11
September 10-11 will be full days of school with all registered students invited to attend for orientation, welcoming, and regular learning. Parents and students will have received clear directions from their school principal
about what to expect when arriving. They will be met by staff who will direct them to meeting spaces with their new cohorts.

Staff will then lead our students through a series of sessions and activities to teach the new health and safety protocols and expectations. Tours and discussions will occur in smaller groups. Once these expectation and
protocols are established, students will transition into other orientation and start-up learning activities.

While we are recommending that students attend school starting on September 10th, we are hearing that some parents may wish to delay their student’s return to school. Schools will establish dates each week for parents to communicate a later return so that individual or small group orientations can be organized for the following week. If you have children with diverse needs who may need an individualized orientation
specific to their needs (separate from other students) please contact your child’s school principal so this can be arranged.

As well, all schools will be organizing either virtual or in-person tours in small groups so that parents who wish to learn more about their school’s safety plans and organization can do so.

Health and Safety Focus
Our student’s health and safety has always been a top priority in SD83, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even more of a focus.
Routines have been upgraded over regular practice to include surface cleaning at least twice a day, wherever use occurs. Autoscrubbers have been purchased for every school to make floor cleaning more efficient. New products have been purchased which have a disinfectant component that can be used on both tile and carpeted surfaces. All classroom and office areas are being supplied with cleaning materials for regular staff to use as
needed.

All schools now have a daytime custodian. Our smallest schools (under 100 students) have one person starting at 7 a.m. Slightly larger schools have an additional custodian starting later in the day. Our biggest schools have two custodians who start first thing in the morning, and then two more who start later in the day.

Strict social distancing measures are in place in all sites where students and/or adults are outside their assigned cohorts. Students and staff will be encouraged to wash hands regularly, and signage has been placed in all washrooms to outline expectations. Hand sanitizer is available in every class, copy room, and on the sign-in table at every site. We
are placing portable hand wash stations in locations where sinks are not readily available and are building additional sinks where it is possible to do so.

Also, one resuable mask and one disposable mask have been ordered for each staff member and each student as allotted by the Ministry of Education’s recent funding, with more to be ordered throughout the year. We have also ordered several hundred sets of visors and goggles, as well as hundreds of boxes of gloves.

Our District Safety Plan outlines a number of steps describing symptoms and response to symptoms when discovered on site. Each site has an isolation space to house staff or student in the event this is required. A form that asks parents to acknowledge the need for daily health checks with their children will be added to every registration and start-up package.

Other Learning Opportunities
We have had a number of inquiries from parents who are considering different educational options. SD83 is not considering a return to the same Home Learning Opportunities program that we used in June, but we will be opening up additional registration from our K12 on-line program known as Educational Outreach Program, or EOP.

EOP is a SD83 online distributed learning program, previously offered for high school and adult students, which will once again include a kindergarten-to-grade 8 program. This program utilizes qualified teachers and recognized BC curriculum and resources. Most learning takes place in the on-line environment, but because staff is local, we can also
provide small amounts of in-person support. SD83 will be hiring additional staff to meet increased demand for this school year. However, we would like to caution parents who are considering this option instead of attending their local school, noting that while some students do thrive in an on-line program, the vast majority are far more successful and happy with in-person learning at their local school.

Some parents may also be considering homeschooling. This option requires that parents take almost complete charge of their child’s education. Parents who choose to homeschool must register their child by September 30th of each year with either a public or independent school.

For students with significant health concerns that may qualify them for additional support through a hospital homebound program, we ask that you contact your child’s school principal to discuss their specific needs. This type of support is offered only in special cases and will require medical documentation.

MINISTRY INFORMATION ON EDUCATION OPTIONS

A number of parents have reached out to EOP principal Rob MacAulay
(rmacaula@sd83.bc.ca) and indicated their interest in our EOP online program. To learn more, and complete our survey where you may indicate your interest, please click the link below:

READ MORE AND FILL OUT SURVEY INDICATING INTEREST HERE

Will the District Hold Seats?
Some parents have asked if the district is able to hold seats for students. If a parent delays their student’s entry to their regular school, that school will likely be able to hold that seat provided there is assurance of attending. If a student registers in another program or school, then their seat may be offered to another student. If there are significant registrations in other programs, such as on-line, then staffing will be reduced in our schools and this will result in fewer available seats. Note that Ministry funding is primarily on a per student basis, and relies on that student being registered in and receiving a program as of September 30th each year.

Transportation
We are looking forward to seeing our students as they head back to school in a couple of weeks! As part of SD83’s efforts to maintain safety during COVID-19, we want to keep parents/guardians informed on safety protocols SD83 has implemented in conjunction with the Ministry to keep our students and staff safe on our school buses.

Busing information post cards have all gone out.  Parents of bus students are asked to please call or email the SD83 Transportation Department (250-832-9415 or email operations@sd83.bc.ca) if:

  • your child will no longer be riding the bus to school starting on September 10; or
  • if you have not received a post card for your bus student by September 3rd, 2020. 

Also, just to make people aware, your child’s school bus driver has the option to wear a mask while driving their bus as well as a face shield/safety glasses when the bus is stopped. Please talk to your child about this change in their bus driver’s attire.

Below are instructions from our Health and Safety plan for students to safely ride their school bus during COVID-19:

1. Students who are sick will need to be kept home. Students who develop symptoms while at school will not be permitted to return home on a school bus and should be picked up by a parent or guardian. We are not able to transport students who are ill or showing symptoms.

2. Parents will be responsible for their child’s safety at the bus stop. Parents must remain with their child K-5 until the bus departs in the morning.

3. To ensure that your child is as safe as possible, please review safety procedures before riding the bus:

  • Line up with limited contact when waiting for the schools bus.
  • Always follow the driver’s instructions.
  • When loading onto the bus, go to the furthest available seat unless the driver instructs otherwise.
  • When unloading the bus, wait until the seat in front has moved before you get up to go, ensure physical distancing is observed.
  • When space is available students will be seated in the window seat away from the aisle.
  • When possible bus routes will utilize a strict seating plan that reflects cohort and family groupings.
  • No eating or drinking (except water) on the school bus.

4. School Buses will not be accepting unregistered riders which includes after-school friends coming home with a bus student. Alternate transportation will need to be arranged in those cases.

5. Students in Grades 6-12 will be required to wear masks while riding the school bus as directed by the Ministry of Education.

6. Your child will receive an updated ‘Procedure and Code of Conduct for Bus Students’ form from their bus driver. Please review front and back of form with your child and return the signed bottom portion to the bus driver as soon as possible.

In order to keep students and staff as safe as possible, we will require bus students to follow the above rules very closely to avoid the risk of losing their busing privileges. We appreciate your cooperation in keeping everyone safe.

As this is an ever changing environment, Ministry requirements may change SD83 protocols as the school year progresses. Thanks for your assistance in helping our students be comfortable and safe!

Elective Programs
SD83 schools are still offering a full array of elective choices and specialized programs. In some cases, especially if the courses rely on participation by students in multiple cohorts to continue, a number of additional measure may be in place so that they can run safely. Schools and departments will be communicating these expectations as school start-up approaches.

Recess, Lunch and other Breaks
Schools are in the process of organizing their own schedules to reflect the cohort model. Larger schools with multiple cohorts may be staggering break and lunch to limit contact between learning groups. Note that masks will be mandatory for students in grades 6 through 12 when contact with other cohorts can occur in interior spaces such as buses, hallways, and common areas. Some schools will also be limiting contact between cohorts
in outside areas, but these decisions will depend on school population and the nature of play areas.

Adapting to the Cohort Model
As you know, the new Stage 2 Restart Plan uses cohort limits of 60 students in elementary middle schools, and 120 student in secondary schools. Our school principals have been working hard to schedule their schools to reflect these new expectations.

Our elementary schools use a classroom model for instruction, which would typically utilize a cohort limit of 30 or less. In cases where groups of learners move between rooms or co-mingle outside of their class grouping, principals will modify schedules to limit the cohort contact to 60 students or less.

Middle schools in our School District already move in pods for the majority of their learning. In cases where students are assigned to class groupings outside their cohort, principals are rescheduling students to remain inside their cohort. Students will still be able to do exploration units, but this learning will now occur within the cohort.

Secondary schools are taking a number of approaches. Four of our schools will be switching to a quarter system timetable (two courses for 10 weeks), with only one school remaining on a semester schedule. Most schools are creating cohorts by “horizontal slicing” by grade groups. At the secondary level, these changes have been incredibly challenging and time consuming to put in place, and we are very proud of their thoughtful work. Your secondary school principals teams will be describing how they have met the cohort restriction and any additional measures they are making to improve safety through their start-up communications.

Masks and Other PPE
PPE is not required for most staff beyond that used as part of regular precautions for the hazards normally encountered in their regular course of work (e.g. gloves for some custodial services).

However, non-medical masks or face coverings are required to be worn by staff and students in grades 6 through 12 in high traffic areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained and the person may interact with people outside of their cohort. Exceptions will be made for students who cannot wear masks for medical reasons.

Beyond the above, wearing a non-medical mask or face covering in schools is a personal choice that will be respected.

Kindergarten and Gradual Start
Kindergarten children are welcomed into their new school at the beginning of September by their classroom teacher and other key staff members using the Gradual Entry model. Students will attend in small groups and/or for shorter periods of time. The gradual entry process helps support a smooth and successful transition into Kindergarten. Teachers will be introducing children to classroom routines and procedures and helping the students adjust to the new social and emotional realities of school, in addition to COVID-19 safety protocols. This year, Gradual Entry will take place from Thursday, September 10th to Friday, September 18th. Schools will be reaching out to Kindergarten families with their school-specific Gradual Entry schedule prior to school start-up. 

StrongStart Update

For the month of September, StrongStart educators will be supporting students with Kindergarten transition in Kindergarten classes at their program’s school. Starting Thursday, October 1st, our goal is to reopen all SD83 StrongStart programs, although there will be several restrictions due to COVID-19. A detailed StrongStart reopening plan will be shared later in September. Interested families will be asked to complete a survey so we can verify the number of families planning on attending and create a schedule for program attendance (only 6 families may attend at one time).
Here are some guidelines outlined by the Ministry of Education regarding StrongStart programs: StrongStart BC programs can be operated safely by following recommended preventative measures such as requiring participants and staff to stay home when sick, encouraging physical distancing and minimizing physical contact, practicing hand hygiene, and implementing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols. All programs must follow current public health guidelines for K-12 schools and child care settings.Examples of flexible options include:

  • Limiting the number of hours per day and/or days per week that the program is offered.
  • Pre-registering families into the program, if possible.
  • Pre-planning family attendance and/or organizing families into smaller cohorts, if possible.
  • Limiting group sizes in consideration of the StrongStart BC program’s maximum space capacity.
  • Engaging in physical distancing as much as possible including increasing the space between learning stations.
  • Taking children and families outside for learning activities, including play and snack time.

Please contact Jennifer Findlay, District Principal, if you have any questions at jfindlay@sd83.bc.ca

Sick Students or Staff
The BCCDC guidelines for schools are firm, in that if any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, the person(s) are not to attend school. Teachers will be expected to support students if they must stay home due to illness as they would normally. If these numbers become a significant challenge over the course of the school year, the district may consider some other support options.

If a student or staff member develops symptoms at school, protocols are in place for the person to be isolated and returned home as soon as possible. Public health would be notified immediately of a potential case. Custodial staff would clean and disinfect the area where the person had been isolated and any areas used by them.

COVID-19 Outbreak

If anyone at school tests positive for COVID-19, public health would work with school administration on contact tracing*. As per normal protocols, public health officials will work with the school district and school administration to determine what actions should be taken and if suspending in-class learning is necessary. If any staff or student has been in contact with a COVID-positive person, they will be notified by public health officials and must self-isolate. SD83 will not release any information regarding individuals who may have COVID-19 exposure unless directed to do so by Interior Health.
*The use of learning groups supports rapid contact tracing by allowing public health to focus on a smaller group of people.

Complete newsletter is available here