School districts across B.C. have published their restart plans with detailed COVID-19 guidelines in anticipation of the K-12 school year to begin on September 8th.
The plans have been formulated with the goal of keeping students and staff safe while administering the most effective education possible.
“There is no better place than in-class learning. With these plans now in place, parents can feel confident about sending their children back to school and assured that strict health and safety measures are in place to protect students and staff,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “I know that some families will continue to have medical or health concerns, and my expectation is that school districts will be flexible and work with families to provide remote options that keep children connected to their school community.”
School District 5 (SD5) and School District 6 (SD6) have made their protocol documents publically available for parents, staff and students to review.
Among the changes will be the implementation of learning groups, which will consist of a number of students and teachers who remain together through a school term, such as a semester or the entire year. Those within a set group with primarily interact with one another and may be made up of a single class, multiple classes or a group of students taking the same courses.
For SD5, learning groups will involve different numbers according to class sizes per grade:
- Kindergarten – 20 students.
- Kindergarten/Grade 1 blend – 20.
- Grade 1-3 – 22 students.
- Any primary blends (Grade 1-3) – 22 students.
- Grade 3/Grade 4 blend – 24 students.
- Grade 4 -6 – 29 students.
- Any intermediate blends grade 4-6 – 26 students.
SD5 said middle school students’ learning groups will include two classes of the same grade, with approximately 48 students and two teachers.
The students will primarily be taught by the two teachers, with classes consisting of their regular classroom teacher and regular scheduled Education Assistants.
Grades 8 and 9 will be using a teaching model that means the Math/Science and English/Socials Studies curriculum will have one teacher teach to both groups, with other subjects offered to the groups as well. Grade 7 will follow a similar model, with teachers working together to determining who will teach which class.
Learning groups for secondary students will have a two-model system to help comply with provincial guidelines.
SD5 said its timetables were built with the expectation of 100% of students attending 100% of the time, so parents and students can expect similar class sizes and configurations as the past several years.
“While different courses have different class size limits, for the vast majority of secondary courses, the limits are between 24-30 students. A very select group of courses are exempted from these class size limitations, but may face health and safety specific regulations in the Restart Plan which may affect class size,” said SD5.
With some courses being taught outside of the learning group, such as choir and leadership classes, teachers and students may be required to wear PPE and maintain physical distancing.
Meanwhile, SD6 said minimal physical contact should be encouraged between members of the same learning group, but maintaining a two-meter distance will not be mandatory.
SD5 said some students may not have their learning groups finalized until September 10th.
Masks and PPE
For both districts, those from outside a learning cohort, such as a substitute teacher or a student from another group, must maintain a safe distance and wear a mask and possibly other PPE.
Students in middle and secondary school will be required to wear masks when interacting with students in common areas, such as hallways and bathrooms. Two reusable non-medical masks will be provided per student, with disposable masks available at the school and on busses.
However, SD5 does not recommend masks for students in elementary school, due to an increased likelihood they will touch their face and eyes and require assistance to properly put on and take off the mask.
As well, students will not have to wear a mask of they do not tolerate it.
SD5 said middle and secondary students who take the bus to and from school will be required to wear a mask while riding and getting on or off the bus. SD6 has expanded the rules to include grades 4 to 12.
Adults riding or entering the bus, including the driver, will be required to wear a mask at all times.
Students, as well as the bus driver, will be asked to wash their hands before and after the trip. Hand sanitizer will be available on all SD5 busses.
Both districts will have assigned seating on the bus to maintain learning groups, and modifications will be made when needed.
Busses, like the schools themselves, will undergo enhances cleaning procedures to minimize health risks as much as possible.
Sports and Extracurriculars
SD5 said sports will still be allowed to go on, as long as a two-meter distance can be maintained, however, in-person inter-school competitions or events will not be permitted within learning groups for the time being. Other extracurricular activities will still be allowed to go on, as long as proper physical distancing can be maintained.
According to SD6, all extracurricular activities, including sports, arts or special interest clubs will not be allowed, but the policy will be re-evaluated mid-fall.