School start up

“It looks like school out there”, Superintendent of Schools/CEO Peter Jory told trustees at the School District No. 83 Board of Education meeting on Tuesday at the DESC.

“Aside from the masks and sign-ins and sanitizer, and the somewhat 80’s seating plans, it looks like school, and when I was out there it seemed to me that kids were pretty darn happy about being back in session, and I think that is the majority sentiment. Once again, I would like to thank everyone across the District for going above and beyond in order to make this work. It has been incredibly challenging and our staff and community has risen to that challenge for sure. Honestly, I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our District.”

Jory commented that it was now eleven days into start-up, and six months and one week since Spring Break.

“In that time we have had a shut-down, gone online across the district with six in-person hub schools, had a June restart using a hybrid with 35 per cent of our students returning in person, closed for summer break, and now we are back again.”

“We spent the summer planning for this return – the new Stage 2 with cohorts of 60 & 120. Some scheduling changes were necessary in elementary and middle. Significant scheduling changes were necessary in secondary schools.”

Jory notes each high school has addressed the cohort model in a way that suits their configuration: horizontal slicing of grade groups and the use of quarter system in all schools but ALF. Sullivan has also gone to alternating days due to their grade 11 and 12 only configuration and elective focussed timetable. “These decisions were made thoughtfully and have required countless hours to execute.”

“We have updated our District Safety Plan, and our transportation safety plan, and schools developed their own safety plans, each with specific expectations for cleaning, hygiene, traffic patterns, common spaces, outside time and more, depending on grade configuration and school population.”

Jory commented that in mid-summer they noticed the growing interest in on-line learning due to concerns around attending regular school in the context of Covid-19. This led to the reopening of our District K-8 Education Outreach program and expansion of our existing 9-12 program. So far we have accepted just about 300 students in Kindergarten through Grade 12. Three-quarters of these enrolled have indicated that this is a temporary situation, and that they are likely to return to their regular schools before the end of the year. The remaining one-quarter stated they have moved over for the duration of the year. “This enrolment is very fluid in both directions, with new registrations still occurring daily, and some students already returning to their regular schools,” he added.

“Because EOP is no longer a niche service in our school District, we have enlisted the support of our Inclusive Education Department, who is supplying LRT time and counselling time. Though we will not be splitting our enrolment further with a hybrid model like we used in June, our EOP is technically a hybrid program already, as we provide opportunities for direct support with our local staff. In my opinion, this is the only way to make an online program work for students, and even so, we continue to caution registrants that online is not for everybody.”

Director of Instruction (Inclusive Education) Carol-Ann Leidloff and Inclusive Education Vice Principal Reta Moerike provided trustees with an update of how Inclusive Education will be trying to support students with diverse needs who are in EOP temporarily or full time.

For those students with special needs who have chosen EOP temporarily, the learning resource teacher from the child’s home school will continue to develop and oversee supports.

Supports for those who fully move over to EOP are now being worked on.

Moerike is contacting all parents of students in kindergarten through grade eight with diverse needs who have signed up with EOP to see what supports they need and what can be offered. She added the conversations have been going well.

She is now beginning the process of contacting parents of students in grade 9 to 12. She noted if any parents of children with diverse learning needs in EOP has not been contacted within the next two weeks to send her an email at rmoerike@sd83.bc.ca.