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Schools plan for unknown as fall return dependent on COVID-19: Surrey superintendent


Superintendent of the Surrey school district shared some insight into what school might look like in the fall

Jordan Tinney says the plan is dependent on COVID-19 and the province's response but says schools are preparing

Tinney says the final model will likely be released closer to September

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — It’s still far from clear what school will look like in the fall, but with a new semester set to begin in just over two months, districts are having to prepare for anything.

Though, the superintendent for the Surrey school district is offering some insight into how schools are planning for the upcoming school year.

In a video message, Jordan Tinney acknowledges the return is dependent on COVID-19 and the province’s response, and it is possible for a normal return to school, but there are multiple plans in place.

“We need to make decisions which prepare us for the government’s final call,” he says. “We are choosing to plan for returning to school in September. In the model we’re in now, with one key exception, we are planning with the belief if we are in this stage in the fall, coming to school will not be optional.”

Addressing parents, students, school staff, and the community, the superintendent says the ministry of education has outlined five possible stages for the return to school plan, with each stage varying in the amount of face-to-face teaching.

While returning to school is possible for the fall, it wouldn’t be a full return to class, Tinney says.

He suggests elementary school students could be going into the classroom 50 per cent of the time while those in middle and secondary school will be going in-person one day a week. The rest of education will be online, with the exception of children with special needs or children of frontline workers, they will be going to school full-time.

“As recent as the first week of June, the minister of education and the provincial health officer were both saying we could return to a blended or hybrid model, so we need to be prepared,” Tinney says.

When schools reopened in June, more students were given the option to choose whether or not to physically go to school. Many students are currently in a blended model of teaching with in-class instruction with some online components.

Tinney says the final word from the province probably won’t come until August, and stresses the importance of being ready for any model.

“But if the decision is to remain in a blended model, then we need to make sure we’re prepared to make this the best educational program possible and capitalize on what we learned in the spring.”

He notes the remarkable work of educators and support staff who’ve redesigned teaching models twice in three months.

“It’s an amazing feat,” he says.

The school year officially ends June 26, and Tinney adds he will be sending out another message sometime next week.

In the two weeks students have been able to go back to the classroom, there hasn’t been a COVID-19 outbreak linked to schools.